- 21 Jan 09, 09:45 GMT
So how was it for you? Yesterday I wrote that, while the Obama inauguration might be a big new media happening, it was also the kind of event where the old medium of broadcast television could be the best place to enjoy it.
Mid-afternoon, I sat down to try to experience the inauguration (or #inaug09 as Twitter users tagged it) in as many ways as possible, both new and old. I turned the television on my desk to the BBC's output. I opened several tabs in the browser on my laptop to monitor various sites and social networking feeds, and pointed the desktop at the BBC News site.
Oh, and surely there must be a mobile route to the event? I downloaded the new Ustream application to my phone, and attempted to watch live there. This was the one aspect of my activities that impressed my colleagues, who were mostly watching the standard television output. I wandered around the office, showing off the stream of the AP coverage, to plenty of oohs and aahs.
But it was quickly stuttering, then freezing, and I decided that, like a dog that can stand on its hindlegs, streaming video on a mobile phone is merely of curiosity value when you have access to something better.
The joint operation between CNN and Facebook did look impressive. Once you'd worked out how to get there, you could watch CNN's stream from Washington's Mall while updating your Facebook status and seeing exactly what your friends - and the rest of Facebook - were saying about the event. It was an instant online party. Then, seeking something much plainer I turned to WSJ.com which had a feed without any commentary.
All the while, I was looking at Twitter for a bit of instant feedback and the odd picture from the event, though one Tweet summed up rather well the slightly random view you got from this vantage point:
jamesgraham: "Reading inauguration coverage on twitter is a bit like the Sermon on the Mount...in Life of Brian: 'blessed are the cheesemakers?'"
But then the internet (or the office network) seemed to creak under the strain. The streaming video packed up completely on some sites, and was unsatisfactory on others. And wherever I went online, the video was not quite live - seconds, sometimes minutes behind the broadcast version.
So, as Aretha Franklin launched into what seemed to British ears an electrifying rendition of "God Save The Queen" (it was actually "My Country Tis of Thee), I concentrated on good old-fashioned live television for the rest of the ceremony.
Old media won the day for me, albeit with some enjoyable social networking spice. But what do the figures show for the rest of the world? Facebook and CNN were soon shouting from the rooftops about their collaborative effort. 600,000 status updates were posted through the CNN.com Live Facebook feed, and 18 million live video streams were served up, as compared with around five million on the day of the presidential election, their previous record. And that experiment where they asked for photos of the moment Obama took the oath, and then stitched them together into a 3D mosaic worked a treat.
Our own BBC site was getting heavy traffic - about 30% above a normal day at around 1700 GMT UK time, though that dropped back once the event was over. But, as my colleague who looks at web traffic predicted, it wasn't a record-breaking event. 7.4 million people used the BBC news site yesterday, some way short of the 10 million who turned up on US election day. The stats coming out of the US paint a mixed picture, with records broken for social networking traffic but not for news sites.
What is clear is that this event will have a long tail on the web. YouTube videos were already being posted within minutes - here's one of that Aretha Franklin performance - and video and text of the inaugural speech are going to be available online for students for generations to come, along with the kind of user-generated content that just did not exist 10 years ago.
But for every person who surfed, tweeted and streamed their way through 20 January 2009, there were many more who just sat on sofas around the world and watched the TV. There is always nonsense talked about television audiences for global events - I think the 1.5 billion mentioned in some places has just been pulled out of a hat - but it is clear that in the US and around the world hundreds of millions were tuned into live television at noon Washington time.
Mind you, the Obama administration is already looking very 21st Century in its own approach to new media, with a new version of the White House website going live, just as the new president started his slightly halting path through the oath of office.
The website now features a "blog" - though one that does not appear to be written by the president or any other named individual and does not allow readers to comment. Perhaps there's a little work to be done before we can say there's a Web 2.0 White House.
Update 2008-01-23 1657: Thanks mute_posting for the heads-up: that slip of the keyboard is now fixed.
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