The inauguration of Barack Obama was more than just another big media event.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum and regardless of where you live, President Obama’s inauguration was an historic moment for the internet.

Here’s the inauguration’s impact on the internet, by the numbers:

  • According to Akamai, a CDN provider, 7.7 million people watched streaming video of the inauguration online simultaneously (likely a new record). It tracked 5.4 million visitors per minute at noon across the pages on websites it hosts content for.
  • CNN reports that throughout the day, more than 27 million people watched Live on CNN streams offered on At one point, it counted 1.7 million simultaneous viewers. All told, CNN properties generated over 135 million page views.
  • Facebook, which partnered with CNN for the event, counted 4,000 status updates per hour on Tuesday morning and at one point during President Obama’s inaugural speech, 8,500 comments were being posted per minute on the website.
  • Twitter experienced 5x the normal number of tweets per second.

All told, millions of people experienced the inauguration online. From watching streams to posting countless photos, comments, blog posts and tweets, January 20, 2009 demonstrated just how important the internet has become to the distribution of news and information around the world.

It also demonstrated that the maturity of internet infrastructure. While Keynote Systems measured performance declines of as much as 60% on the internet’s top 40 websites as the inauguration ceremony began and some websites like reportedly went down almost entirely, the fact that so many popular websites were able to serve up so much content to so many people (even with a few hiccups) really is a testament to today’s internet infrastructure, especially when you consider the resource-intensive nature of streaming video and social networking functionality.

But January 20, 2009 was a watershed moment in the internet’s history for more than its exhibition of internet distribution and internet infrastructure.

The day also demonstrated just how far the internet has come as a participatory medium. It’s now possible for individuals to comment on the news (and make the news) as it happens, creating unique collective experiences that never existed before. It also means that if you have an internet connection, you never have to go through a major event alone; there are plenty of people all over the world who you can share it with online.

This is perhaps the biggest news item of the day for internet observers and although President Obama’s inauguration may be one of those rare events that doesn’t come along very often, it’s worth noting nonetheless.

For digital marketers and businesses, the implications and lessons of the inauguration may seem entirely theoretical and out of reach, but if anything they demonstrate the breadth and the depth of the medium in which we operate and the value it can bring to people’s lives. That’s something worth reminding ourselves of when we get too caught up in the daily minutia.