The major broadcast and cable news networks may have delivered the most dramatic images of Tuesdays terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon in Washington, D.C., but it was the online news sites that many turned to for more detailed information about events.
Unfortunately, those sites were not prepared to satisfy the demands of news-hungry Americans. Web site measurement service Keynote Systems said that three of the most popular online news sites - NYTimes.com, Cnn.com and ABCNews.com - were unavailable between 9 and 10 am EST, the hour after the World Trade Center was hit by two hijacked commercial airliners.
"Weve seem some major events impacting Web site availability in the past," said Keynote spokeswoman Mary Lindsay, "but even then we didnt see the massive dramatic impact we saw today."
Though the NYTimes.com site was back up between 10-11 am, site performance came in at 43 percent availability – that is, only 43 out of every 100 attempts made to access the site were successful, Keynote said.
ABCNews.com wasnt so lucky. The site was unavailable between 9-11 am EST, and got a 5 percent availability rating.
Other news sites were also affected, with MSNBC.com and USAToday.com clocking in with availability rates of 22 percent and 18 percent, respectively, in the hour after the attacks occurred.
To help keep up with traffic demands, several news sites pared down their home pages. CNN redesigned its home page, from 255-Kilobytes to 20 kilobytes, Lindsay said. ABCNews.com also streamlined the graphics on its home page, directing viewers to page sporting simple text links to stories concerning the terrorist attacks. MSNBC.com first cut back personalization of its home page, then simplified further as the day progressed.