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The World Cup: The internet gets through

Rory Cellan-Jones | 08:41 UK time, Thursday, 24 June 2010

How did you watch the England match yesterday? If you watched online, you were part of a record-breaking crowd.

Screenshot of the iPlayerWith the match being played in the afternoon, the BBC was expecting exceptional levels of traffic as people at work accessed the Sport website or the iPlayer.

And so it proved - as well as office workers, a number of schools watched online. My son returned home with tales of electronic whiteboards used to show the game.

At the peak, the BBC says there were 800,000 concurrent streams during the England v Slovenia game - that's the peak number watching at any one time, and will be much lower than the figure for unique visitors.

That smashed the previous record set, ooh, ages ago on Monday, when there were 355,000 concurrent streams for coverage of the World Cup and Wimbledon.

There were other reports of record traffic; the internet service provider Demon says there was a 55% increase in internet traffic during the match, while Easynet put the spike in traffic at kick-off at 226%.

This was not just in the UK: there are reports from across the Atlantic that web traffic to news sites hit record levels as the USA played Algeria.

Arbor Networks, a firm which monitors the internet, says it saw Flash traffic peak at more than double normal levels, and Flash, as it points out is just one small part of World Cup video.

By the way, for evidence of how excited some Americans now are about the football, take a look at this clip.

But despite this huge flow of video, the internet stood up to the strain. Interoute, which runs Europe's largest fibre-optic network, says there was no mass surge in internet traffic overall. It speculates that routine net activities, such as web browsing, fell away.

True, some people reported problems viewing the video streams - one viewer told me that his reception of the BBC stream was 13 minutes behind the TV by the end of the match.

But the real loser has been Twitter, which has come under unprecedented strain during the World Cup.

A site which measures the availability of services like Twitter shows it suffered significant downtime on Wednesday, one of a number of incidents over recent days.

All in all, however, a day when the internet proved once again how robust it is. A few months back, Craig Labovits of Arbor Networks told me that the running joke in the engineering community is that the internet is always on the verge of collapse.

Fingers crossed, it looks like it might just cope with the global online event which the World Cup has become.


  • Comment number 1.

    Shame the BBC got it all so wrong. Their attempts at Geo-IP blocking are awful. By blanket banning certain IPs, all they do is frustrate the public. I'm sitting in an office in London and constantly told "not available in your area".

    This from the same BBC News website which seems to know (and proactively offer me different content) when I am in the UK and not. Do the two parts not talk to each other?

    For a license fee payer (and staunch defender of it) that's more than galling.

  • Comment number 2.

    Yesterday I watched (tried to watch) the match on iPlayer. However It was not so much anything to do with the BBC but the internet connection I was using, which at the best of times is slow and found it was easier to simply listen to it via Radio 5 Live (also through iPlayer) which worked a treat.

    However it raises the question not so much about is the Internet up to the job of streaming such amounts of data to people, but the connections from the ISP's to those people.

    Only last week I had a chap from Sky turn up on my doorstep trying to sell their services and Broadband. I am fortunate that at home I have a very fast (upto 20Mbps connection) of which I actually get just over 17Mbps. He was shocked as to why anyone would want such speed - as the offer he was selling would be upto 8Mbps. I explained how much streaming of content is done in my houshold and actually was looking forward to having cable give me up to 50Mbps.

    Increasingly we (my household) watch a lot of content through our house streamed or downloaded from the Internet. Be that YouTube, iTunes, See Saw, iPlayer and the likes. It gives true choice and on that choice to be on demand. Sadly though just like with Music, content providers are really not sure how to go with this and how to make money from such.

    I'll enjoy the day I can have all my needs catered for through the Internet, pay a flat fee but small payments on top to rent a film, or download a music track, watch live TV in high quality and have vast choice when I want it.

    iPlayer does well - hell of a lot better than ITV's streaming service and yet we all take it for granted and proves the BBC can do good things and supply us with high quality, innovative services from our Licence Fee.

  • Comment number 3.

    I first tried to load it 40 minutes into the game.

    The plugin would not load although I have watch lots of stuff on the BBC site.

    Other people in my office already had a link so I watched it on their machine.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hats off to the Beeb for pulling that off! 800,000 concurrent users is no small thing in video streaming. Others have tried and failed rather miserably. Well done BBC!

    I'd be interested in finding out whether they had to pull in extra resources from their streaming/bandwidth providers, or that sort of capacity was already built in.

  • Comment number 5.

    I live in China....really useful for me

  • Comment number 6.

    I tried to watch online but the BBC refused to let me because my phone wasn't made by apple.

  • Comment number 7.

    @ Chris (post #6)

    My phone's made by Nokia, and I've never had any trouble with BBC content.

  • Comment number 8.

    @ Chris (Post #6)

    Actually, it works on all phones as newer Android based phones now can get Flash support and the iPhone has its own BBC iPlayer page and same with any other phone.

    I have an iPhone and trust me, its not really that much different on the iplayer than any other phone.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm watching the world cup on good, old-fashioned terrestrial TV, albeit digital. However, having yet to find a decent Freeview box, I use a USB TV tuner and MPlayer on my Linux Fedora 13 PC. I use BBC iPlayer for catchup only. I think streaming of live TV has a long way to go yet, before it's as good as traditional TV broadcasting.

  • Comment number 10.

    "I tried to watch online but the BBC refused to let me because my phone wasn't made by apple."

    Yep same situation. BBC jump through the hoops for apple but no-one else.

  • Comment number 11.

    Seconding Jordans comment @ no.1 - i cannot watch any of the BBC's content on my computer at work which is ridiculous. Even worse is that sometimes it also decides to stick adverts all over the page as well - again as a license fee payer i find this unacceptable - BBC find a solution!

  • Comment number 12.

    I am not trying to defend the BBC, they're very capable of doing that themselves, but it's very possible that some of those accessing iPlayer at work are going through web proxy servers based outside the UK. Hence, despite being physically present in the UK, their web browser's IP address appears foreign to the BBC servers.

    I am in that situation too, and while I understand and don't raise issue, I've found that this applies to contacting the BBC via some of their web forms. If you're outside the country or are connecting via a foreign based web proxy, your comment is tagged 'foreign', and probably gets little attention.

  • Comment number 13.

    I didn't have any issues using [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]. Not sure how they do it, but just about all the broadcasts were there.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Strange how my post was sent to "moderation".

  • Comment number 16.

    @Burty117 Not really. It works on a very small number of android phones which support flash. A much larger number could access the same steams as the iphone if the BBC didn't put an artificial barrier in place to block access.

  • Comment number 17.

    I don't really fancy watching matches at work, I've got work to do. However there was a room ready where people could watch the broadcast if they wanted. I must say that BBC is really doing the best job, far better than ITV, which annoys me in many ways. I have to click on the links at ITV many times before anything happens. It also took me 3 days to figure out where the links to the broadcast are. The links and design of the ITV pages is a nightmare. I finally used Google to find the proper link.
    My provider is BT and I must admit the service has improved recently, I had my line updated, so I have on average a 6Mb speed which seems to be very good for watching the live matches and there are not glitches when BBC is broadcasting.
    Well done BBC. Thank you.

  • Comment number 18.

    I didn't have any issues using seetvpc (dot) com. Not sure how they do it, but just about all the broadcasts were there.

  • Comment number 19.

    I have watched a few games on the BBC site (a house full of women dictates that the TV will be used for something other than football), and have found it to be excellent.

    The ITV streaming on the other hand, doesn't have updates and is constantly buffering. Quite poor.

  • Comment number 20.

    I have to admit the BBC's internet stream has been top notch. I've had very little problems with any of the streams they have had for matches broadcast by the BBC. It has also been incredibly straight forward to find the link in order to view the match.

    It's a shame that another terrestial channel who is also showing the World Cup seems to provide a complete opposite experience when watching the matches on their website. Constant buffering, an incredible maze has to be negotiated in order to find the link just to watch the match.

    All in all I would say well done BBC you have provided a first class internet service for this World Cup.

  • Comment number 21.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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