July 7, 2005

Web Users Flock to UK Sites for London Blast News

LONDON -- Record numbers of visitors deluged British Web sites on Thursday as people around the world sought news of the blasts that rocked London's public transport.

Sites operated by public broadcaster BBC, satellite TV company BSkyB, news provider Reuters and the Financial Times business newspaper suffered longer delays on their home pages Thursday morning in London because of the volume, according to a company that monitors Web traffic.

"There was a significant amount of turbulence in terms of performance," said Roopak Patel, an analyst at Keynote Systems.

The BBC expects by the end of Thursday it will have had the most visitors in a single day in the history of its news Web site, though it won't have official data until Friday.

"We have had a huge surge in people using the site today," BBC spokeswoman Naomi Luland said. "We are pretty certain this is going to be our busiest ever day."

The bbc.co.uk Web site experienced some delays, she added, but handled the volume well.

"We haven't had any major problems. We've had consistency in service. There may have been a little slowdown earlier," Luland said.

Among the other popular UK sites were www.sky.com/skynews, www.ft.com and www.reuters.com.

By 3:15 p.m. (1415 GMT), Sky said it had registered 1.7 million unique visitors for the day.

"That's the equivalent of a month's traffic on the site," Sky spokeswoman Stella Tooth said.

"We had 25 million page impressions and the site was very robust and withstood the extra traffic," she added.

The Reuters sites at reuters.com, reuters.co.uk and others in Europe experienced a "technical fault" with their servers unrelated to high volume earlier in the day, the company said. The problem was fixed by the afternoon.

"In the morning, we saw five times the normal traffic for our global network of sites and from this afternoon it was about twice the normal traffic," spokeswoman Susan Allsopp said. "We saw huge traffic for the tsunami in Asia so I don't think we can say it's a record, but it's high peaks in our coverage."

A spokeswoman for the FT said it would not have any information about the number of visitors to ft.com until Friday.

Keynote's index of some 40 UK business Web sites showed an increase in delays, with the wait time for pages to load spiking to 17 seconds during peak usage from the normal average of 2 seconds. Reliability decreased as well as one in four attempts to load a Web page failed at peak times, according to Keynote.

"Users who were trying to access the information were seeing higher than normal delays, and at the same time some people weren't able to get through to some sites," Patel said.

He added that U.S. news sites saw no major delays because Internet infrastructure in the United States is more robust and most users were on the Web hours after the attacks happened.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, airplane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, many news Web sites were so overwhelmed with visitors that they could not be accessed, forcing on-the-fly redesigns to simplify homepages with fewer photographs and less advertising.

(Additional reporting by Nicole Volpe in New York and Andy Sullivan in Washington)