Osama Bin Laden

Twitter recently has played an increasingly important role as a disseminator of breaking news, and the bin Laden story was another prime example.

Just before White House officials told the news media that bin Laden had been killed, Keith Urbahn, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s chief of staff, spread the word via Twitter.

“So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”

Urbahn later said he was tipped off by a well-connected network TV news producer.

Akamai's monitoring dashboard for Internet traffic to global news sites recorded a surge as President Obama spoke live from the White House.Other news agencies quickly followed with tweets, and the microblogging site quickly thereafter exploded with information about the event.

Urbahn was actually not the first to break the news. A Pakistani IT consultant named Sohaib Athar with the Twitter handle ReallyVirtual, who lives in the city of Abbottabad where bin Laden was killed, unwittingly live-tweeted the event as it was happening.

“A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad … I hope its not the start of something nasty” Athar tweeted at about 5:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Google: Google Trends ranked the keywords “osama bin laden dead” as “volcanic,” the highest level it assigns for a trending topic.

Sunday was not the first time that the term “osama bin laden dead” peaked on Google (GOOGFortune 500). On Sept. 24, 2006, a French newspaper l’Est Republicain reported a story supposedly based on leaked Saudi intelligence documents that said bin Laden had been killed a month earlier. The CIA and French governments quickly denounced that report as false.

Google Insights for Search ranked that 2006 story as the biggest search event for bin Laden, but the tool has not updated yet with Sunday’s data.

News sites: The bin Laden story resulted in a peak of more than 4.1 million page views per second on the news websites supported and tracked by content delivery network Akamai (AKAM). Akamai delivers about 20% of the Internet’s content, and it supports popular news sites like nytimes.com, reuters.com, bbc.com and usatoday.com.

The peak occurred at about 11:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, right as President Obama’s news conference began. Just an hour before the news broke, there were roughly 2.5 million page views per second on those pages.

Despite the unusually high volume of traffic, Akamai said it did not rank in the company’s top 10 news events for highest page-view peaks.

The largest peak in Internet traffic came at noon on June 24, 2010, when there were simultaneous World Cup qualifying matches as well as the longest-ever Wimbledon match — all being played at the same time. Those events resulted in a peak of 10.4 million page views per second on the news sites Akamai supports.

Last week’s royal wedding ranked sixth on Akamai’s list, with more than 5 million page views per second. It was the second-highest non-sports-related Internet event, right behind the 2010 U.S. mid-term elections.

All of the largest peaks in the top 13 were from events that occurred in 2010 or 2011 — which is unsurprising, since Internet usage continues to rise globally. But ranking at No. 14 is the inauguration of President Obama, which occurred in January 2008.

The biggest Internet spikes tend to overwhelm servers and rendered some websites unresponsive. News of Michael Jackson’s death famously brought down Google News, TMZ.com, latimes.com and even AOL Instant Messenger, thanks to high traffic demands.

Source: CNN Money