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The Net is Still Not Ready for Prime Time

Last evening’s total solar eclipse, the longest eclipse we will witness in all of the 21st century, was a little disappointing for some of the hundreds of thousands of Asian viewers in China and India due to intermittent cloud cover. But it was even more of a disappointment for Web users. Although there were many sites dedicated to streaming live video of the celestial event, Internet traffic overwhelmed most of the servers. People ”had the most difficult time accessing the live Web coverage in the United States due to high demand,” making what could have been a transformative moment for the Internet into a reality-check of IP technology.

2009 Total Solar Eclipse

2009 Total Solar Eclipse

The unfortunate lesson is that the Net is still not ready for prime time. Here in Northern Virginia, my Internet connection is rated at 5MB downstream, but despite numerous attempts I was unable to load even one live stream of the eclipse. Perhaps it was a local network issue. More likely, the traffic load from millions of HTTP requests locked out all but a relative handful of potential viewers. Meaning that as a mass medium, today’s Internet is still a failure. We’ve got a ways to go before the Internet can replace traditional media. That’s a sad truth, since other recent news events — from Michael Jackson’s death to the U.S. Airways crash in the Hudson River for instance — foretold a sea-change in substitution of the Web for legacy news outlets.

Mashable promoted the eclipse with a post titled “HOW TO: See the Longest Solar Eclipse of the Century Online.” Not there yet!

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