Internet users around the world set a new record Thursday.
It happened during the lunch hour, soon after Italy suffered its dramatic 3-2 loss to Slovakia in the World Cup. At that moment, more than 20 million people a minute plugged into news websites — far more than at any other single time in history.
Experts say the World Cup in South Africa has moved news coverage online in unprecedented ways. The first day of the World Cup drew about 12 million users a minute to news sites. And moments after Landon Donovan scored his match-winning goal to help the United States beat Algeria, about 11.3 million users a minute dropped in on news sites. The numbers come from the Akamai Net Usage Index, which measures Internet consumption for news organizations.
Not even Barack Obama's historic presidential win on Nov. 4, 2008 (about 8.5 million users a minute) drew that kind of traffic.
"This World Cup is a really interesting event to watch in terms of media coverage and online coverage," says Kristen Purcell, associate director for research at the Pew Internet and American Life Project in Washington D.C.
People already comfortable watching TV and movies online are now going to the Internet for sports as well. Probably the biggest reason is that all 64 games are available in streaming video on sites like espn3.com and Univision.com. And soccer fans may be unique in that they like to watch lots of games, says Purcell, rather than only the games in which their country has a stake.
World Cup statistics would appear to bear witness to the trend. On June 11, opening day, 7.6 million people went to FIFA.com, the official World Cup website. Of those, more than 2.6 million came from Europe and 1.7 million came from the United States.
Soccer fans also are reaching out to each other online. Twitter has struggled to keep up with recent tweets, which have at times numbered about 3,000 per second.
And recently CNN teamed with Foursquare, the location-based social networking site, to offer badges to World Cup fans who gather at pubs, sports bars and other World Cup viewing parties.
Though the United States is not the biggest consumer of online World Cup news (that record apparently goes to the British), we are peeking at it more and more.
So much so that this month, one enterprising U.S. company unveiled a "World Cup network traffic calculator," so companies could determine how much of their network was being used up by employees watching the World Cup online.
Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Leonora LaPeter Anton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8640.