- 7 Nov 08, 13:46 GMT
It was the coronation of the Queen in 1953 that saw television enter many British homes for the first time, the moon landing in 1969 inspired millions to go out and buy a colour TV, and it may have been the 2006 World Cup that persuaded lots of us that we needed to start thinking about flatscreen and HD. But did Barack Obama's acceptance speech on US election night mark the moment that web video came of age?
While millions watched the speech live in the US and some stayed up to catch it in the UK, a huge and growing audience has used the web, either to stream it live, or to catch up afterwards.
One internet service provider, PlusNet, claims that online TV viewing in Britain soared threefold in the small hours of Wednesday morning as viewers tuned in to watch Obama's triumph. It seems a lot of people were watching via their computer rather than going downstairs to turn on the television. "We saw two different types of behaviour," says Neil Armstrong of PlusNet. "People staying up late to catch the coverage online, and then from 0730, people logging on at home or at work to watch what they had missed."
And it's the way the web allows you to catch up with video you missed live or failed to record which has really come up trumps. The Obama speech is attracting millions of views on YouTube, where it's available in various forms - put there by broadcasters, and by viewers who've taped it.
Many people tell me they viewed it on Barack Obama's site, where a YouTube video is embedded. But the speech has also driven a lot of traffic to mainstream media sites - from the New York Times, to the Guardian, from the Daily Telegraph, to the BBC.
My colleagues tell me that on Wednesday 1.7 million people viewed the Obama speech on the BBC website, and another 230,000 watched on Thursday. So an event that attracted a pretty small audience on broadcast television - although over half a million were tuned in to the BBC's live election programme at 0500 - has already garnered an audience of about two million on the web. By comparison the biggest number of viewers for any clip in one day during October was 390,000 - for "Monkeys work in Japanese restaurant".
Now the Obama speech, with 2.4 million YouTube views in a couple of days, has got some way to go before it breaks web video records - an Avril Lavigne video and the Evolution of Dance have both had more than a hundred million views. But it looks to me as though a 17-minute speech in Chicago will be seen in retrospect as the event that made millions realise that the internet could let them replay history whenever they wanted.
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