If Friday morning's (April 29) royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine (Kate) Middleton — now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — seemed inescapable on TV, clearly you weren't online before the sun came up. While every news channel was serving up hour-upon-hour of useless tidbits about what kinds of crumpets the royal couple would be snacking on, social-media sites were blowing up with all things Will and Kate.
Just hours before the wedding even kicked off, the buzz around the event surpassed the web chatter around such recent real-news events such as the earthquake in Japan or the democratic uprising in Egypt, according to trend-tracking site Mashable.
A quick peek at the Google Trends site in the hours after the blessed event found 12 of 20 top searches about the wedding or media outlets covering it, with "royal wedding coverage" dominating the list, just above #3 "Kate Middleton wedding dress."
According to Lauren Indvik at Mashable, the tech company Akamai, which measures news and discussion online, reported that the wedding was expected to serve up one of the largest-ever simultaneous audiences to watch a live stream. Akamai also reported that throughout the three hours of live coverage, there were an average of 50,000 online mentions of the phrase "royal wedding" and more than 2 million during the 24-hour period leading up to and through the end of the wedding.
The existing record for a live stream on YouTube is 10 million, for a U2 concert, and Indvik said that that record wasn't likely to be surpassed because the site didn't begin its coverage until the actual ceremony took place. "But I don't ever remember seeing all 10 trending topics on one event on Twitter before," she said of the intense interest on the micro-blogging site. Among them were #proudtobebritish, #rw11, #royalwedding, #qilf, #theykissed, #sarahburton and #gracekelly, the latter two referring to the designer of the dress Kate wore and the similarity to the one worn by the late actress/princess.
Total Twitter conversation by the end of the wedding, according to ABC, was just over 3 million tweets, and it will continue to grow throughout the day. The velocity of the conversation reached its peak at 15,000 tweets (230 tweets per second) — mostly timed around the ceremony and Kate's emergence.
Other records might have been set, but the crush of traffic took down the BBC's website, according to PaidContent.org, which predicted that good old-fashioned TV coverage would likely be the biggest source of viewership.
The social-media impact might have also been bigger if the royal family hadn't installed signal-blocking technology that put the kibosh on cell phone use during the ceremony, meaning no surreptitious tweets and photos in real time. With more than 911,000 tweets sent in the past month about the wedding, Webtrends revealed that a majority (65 percent) were coming not from England, but from the U.S. The majority of the online action before Friday was on Twitter (71 percent), with Facebook (16.9 percent) and blogs (11.3 percent) accounting for smaller shares.
According to Facebook, more than a million people in the U.K. used Facebook statuses to discuss the royal wedding in the past 24 hours, and during the wedding itself, 684,399 status updates referencing the wedding were posted in just four hours in the U.K., which averages out to 47 mentions every second. Interest was even greater in the U.S., with American Facebook users posting updates at a rate of 1.953 million to the 1.004 million from the U.K.
Among the leading topics of discussion? Soccer star David Beckham's arrival with more than 9,000 mentions in just 20 minutes. There were also 13,120 mentions of Alexander McQueen's Burton, as well as 4,264 of dress designer David Emanuel.
As for the influence of the event on the Web in terms of traffic, Mashable reported that the number was around 38.1 percent, just a smidge higher than the earthquake in Japan (37.7) and a healthy clip above the activity earlier this year around the historic changes in Egypt (24.2 percent).
The wedding also set new records on the Livestream site, which reported that its stream of the event exceeded 300,000 concurrent viewers at its 6 a.m. peak, with the company's CEO expecting "at least" 2 million unique viewers by the time the broadcast ended.
Did you watch the royal wedding online? Let us know in comments below!