Search engines – Google and Yahoo – were stretched to the core following the death of Michael Jackson last week. The two known search engines said online traffic worldwide including Africa recorded dramatic increase. Google’s Director of Product Management, R.J. Pittman told Channel Web that his outfit interpreted the numerous Jackson queries as an attack on its platform. Google’s news pages according to Itnewsafrica.com “were inaccessible for a time on Thursday night as news of Jackson’s death broke.”
Pittman said: “The spike in searches related to Michael Jackson was so big that Google News initially mistook it for an
automated attack. As a result, for about 25 minutes yesterday, when some people searched Google News they saw a ‘We’re sorry’ page before finding the articles they were looking for.”
Most people resorted to the internet to confirm the news of Jackson’s death as radio and television stations broke it. In Africa a lot of young people used social networks such as Facebook and twitter to spread the news to colleagues as well as grieve.
Channel Web said both Google and Yahoo, the No. 1 and No. 2 search engines in North America confirmed record-breaking search traffic following the Jackson news. For Google, it reported an unprecedented number of mobile searches, with five of its top 20 searches having to do with Michael Jackson. Yahoo confirmed that a story on Yahoo.com about Jackson being rushed to the hospital notched 800,000 hits inside of 10 minutes, with another story confirming the pop icon’s death reaching 560,000 hits in 10 minutes.
Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker, told BBC News online: “It’s true that between approximately 2.40pm Pacific and 3.15pm Pacific, some Google News users experienced difficulty accessing search results for queries related to Michael Jackson and saw the error page.”
It was around this time that the singer was officially pronounced dead.
Tech radar said Google had trouble recognizing the sudden traffic surge for what it was and Google News was so overwhelmed that the engine mistakenly identified the influx as an automated attack, resulting in the standard error page it returns when it believes it is under attack, itnewsafrica.com said in their report.