Streaming video will encircle, nay, strangle the globe, and the Prattle Royale will continue all day. It might not be as pretty as you think.
The Internet will get its most severe bandwidth test ever on Friday, April 29, when two young people of marginal actual consequence walk down the aisle in Great Britain.
For reasons fully understood only by Jane Austen, people all over the world, perhaps billions of people, will get up, stay up or just stop what they’re doing to follow the proceedings, depending on what time zone they occupy.
And it won’t just be passive viewing, as it was in 1981, when a similar wedding prompted 750 million people in 74 countries to watch via a 20th-century technology called TV.
Streaming video will encircle, nay, strangle the globe, so people will be watching (on TV, too), but they’ll also be tweeting about the event, commenting on Facebook, posting congratulatory videos of their own on YouTube (you know, to their good friends, the Royal Couple), and viewing and sharing photos on Flickr, to name just a few options. The Internet’s arteries could swell to the point of bursting.
In the United States, wedding coverage gets going at 4 a.m. EDT (at least one pre-game show starts at 3), so the main event will be over before most people get to work. But coverage will continue — the Associated Press is planning to stream for seven hours — and the Prattle Royale will no doubt continue all day, as the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton are hashed to the subatomic level, and more photos, videos and comments are passed around.
But do you have to be part of it? The pull of the event may seem inexorable, but there are good reasons, aside from just not having any interest, to avoid the event. We offer three of them here.
1. Sleep in, save the Internet.
No one knows what the full bandwidth capacity of the Internet is, but we might find out on April 29. The wedding will be streamed live via the official Royal Wedding site, the BBC, YouTube, AP and other outlets. In fact, you, too, can stream the event on your own website for only $250.
The official site also will be sharing official photos through Flickr. MSN will offer official wedding photos via an interactive, HTML5 timeline. People will be visiting the royal family’s Facebook page, using the official Twitter hashtag — #rw2011 — to offer their personal congratulations (you know, to their old chums, Will and Kate) and signing in on YouTube’s official Wedding Book with their video well-wishes (Hey, remember us? From Twitter?). And of course, countless photos and videos will be grabbed, shared and commented on via any means people can come up with.
The point is, the Internet will be occupied. Things will likely slow down, or even stop at times, which might be a problem if something serious happens. President Barack Obama’s inauguration slowed down websites in the House, Senate and quite a few news organizations, and knocked out NPR.org completely, MSNBC reported at the time. The problem wasn’t so much the number of users but the amount of streaming. The Royal Wedding figures to have more of both.
You can do your part to lighten the load, perhaps even save the day, just by getting a good night’s rest and going about your work. You’ll feel better for it.
2. Avoid the wedding, avoid the scams.
There’s nothing new under the sun, but the tools of the trade change. We’re sure that when Henry V married Catherine of Valois in 1420, hustlers and scam artists were trolling the crowd outside Troyes Cathedral in France, looking to prey on the unsuspecting and gullible. Where there are people, there are predators. Vipers, vipers everywhere.
The Royal Wedding will be no different, but since so much of the interaction takes place online, that’s where the criminal action will be.
Criminals are nothing if not opportunistic. In 2009, after a video of tennis star Serena Williams promising to feed a line judge a tennis ball for lunch began circulating, hackers jumped at the chance. Within hours, people who thought they were clicking on links to the video were instead routed to sites with malicious code.
You can expect the same here. So beware of e-mails and websites with links to supposed exclusive photos and video of the wedding, reception, honeymoon, royal backstage catfight, whatever. Pitches for authentic wedding souvenirs also could be a lure. Basically, if you can think of something people might want, someone will try to use it as a hook.
You can avoid all of this simply by adopting an attitude of serene disinterest. In the process, you could even get something productive done. You’ll feel better for it.
3. Follow the crowd – the real crowd.
The numbers say this will be the most-viewed event in history. British Cultural Secretary Jeremy Hunt estimates that 2 billion people around the globe will be watching, many of them online.
That might seem like “everybody else is doing it,” but it’s not even close. The current population of the Earth stands at 6.9 billion, give or take, so only a mere 29 percent will be watching. A piddling minority. Not even three out of every 10 people. Meanwhile, a whopping 71 percent don’t care. So conform, fit in and stick with the crowd on this one. You’ll feel better for it.
So there you have it, three solid reasons to turn your attention elsewhere. But will people listen to reason? Of course not, so network administrators looking to at least keep their own domains under control have to consider their options.
Cymtec, a network optimization company, offers some advice on its blog, suggesting that managers allow people to watch the event, but to centralize it in the office, and try to cut down on what employees view or share on their own.
Maybe the best thing to do is go the Charles and Di route from 1981 and let people watch the old fashioned way, on TV, in a room where they can talk about it to each other in person. The Internet just might feel better for it.
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