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Sunday, October 10, 1999 Published at 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK


NetAid sets Webcast record

Wyclef Jean leads the crowd at the New Jersey concert

NetAid was the largest Webcast ever, with thousands of people logging on to watch the fundraising spectacular, say its organisers.

Technology journalist Barry Fox: NetAid was "a great pioneering experiment"
The number of people logging on surpassed the previous mark of 12,500 simultaneous viewers but it did not hitting the system's capacity of 125,000, said Douglas Grimes, a partner with consulting firm KPMG who helped set up the NetAid Website.

Exact figures on the number of people accessing the Webcast or donating funds via the Website are to be released in the coming days.

[ image: Catatonia: Fuzzy on the Internet]
Catatonia: Fuzzy on the Internet
But for some, it was a frustrating experience. The Webcast of the concerts in London, New Jersey and Geneva were designed to be viewed with a version of RealPlayer software that many home computers do not have.

The sheer volume of Internet users slowed down the system, making pictures grainy and slowing transmission time. For the average user, the quality of the concert footage was similar to watching a shaky, slow-motion security camera.

"Perhaps it may have been a little too ambitious to use Internet technology at this point," Thomas Ritstetter of KPMG conceded.

"But the incentive of using the Internet is to get people to make a live donation."

Embryonic technology

Music stars taking part in the event said they were impressed with the concert's networking.

[ image: The Corrs add an Irish flavour to the event]
The Corrs add an Irish flavour to the event
"My opinion about the Internet early on was that it did away with the idea of community," said singer Sheryl Crow, who performed in Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

"Now I think it's a way to reach out to the rest of the community."

The NetAid site was fuelled by 1,500 powerful servers in 90 locations worldwide. It also used new technology developed by Akamai Technologies to re-rout the Webcast to a different server if one network becomes congested.

In extreme cases, the technology was designed to stop more listeners from visiting the Website than its capacity allows.

The organisers had been aiming for a record number of one billion hits for the three overlapping charity concerts in London, New Jersey and Geneva.

The fundraising event was organised by the UN Development Programme and the California-based Internet development company Cisco Systems. Their goal was to have people watch the concert online, then donate money via the Internet.

The Website is designed to handle 1,000 financial transactions per second.

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