Interest in Royal Wedding Breaks Records, Brings Down BBC

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Over the past week, fans of Kate and her prince sent millions of tweets and Facebook comments in anticipation of their big day

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The royal wedding has finally come to an end and Kate Middleton has become Catherine Middleton -- once single-syllable Kate now prefers the more, well, royal-sounding version of her first name. She wed Prince William, the second-in-line for the British throne after his father, Charles, Prince of Wales, at London's Westminster Abbey this morning. (To see the event play out, in photographs, visit In Focus.) And, if you were watching, you weren't alone.

Interest in the wedding, which has been in the works for months (years if you count the lengthy courting process) was so great that it can be difficult to tally. To get a sense of just how many people tuned in to hear the "I do's," let's take a look at what facts and figures are available.

Over the week, Yahoo! saw a 1,199% jump in searches for "What Is Prince Williams Last Name?"

After starting to broadcast live with dedicated coverage very early, the BBC's website crashed around 11:13 a.m. BST when traffic to the site grew to a point where it was just too much for the servers to handle. "We are experiencing some technical issues with BBC online," the BBC announced in a press release. "We're investigating and will update when we have more information." The update, which came 17 minutes later -- a lifetime for some royal wedding watchers, eager to track every detail -- confirmed that the outage was due to traffic. "We are experiencing some technical issues with BBC Online due to the sheer weight of traffic which may cause the site to be slower than normal in some cases," the release explained.

It's not yet known just how much traffic the website was getting, but it hardly could be billed as unexpected; this was an embarrassment for the BBC's web team that can't be sold any other way. An estimated two billion people (nearly one out of every three people in the world) were expected to watch the wedding on television. Many of them, of course, also had computers and/or smartphones at the ready. (And don't forget the BBC visitors who just wanted some international news.)

The television and web coverage of the event was the culmination of a long chain of record-breaking events, with anticipation reaching a boiling point over the past week. In the seven days before the wedding, 2.1 million tweets concerning the event were sent, according to ABC News. In addition, more than 1.75 million Facebook comments were made over the past month that mentioned "royal wedding" in the United States alone. Nearly one million people watched "Royal Wedding Invitation," an official wedding video. Some of the other figures that ABC pulled together: 11,225 results returned for a search of "royal wedding" on Flickr; 70 percent increase in Google searches worldwide for "fascinator," the name of Kate's hair piece; 1199 percent increase in Yahoo! searches over the past week for "What Is Prince Williams Last Name;" and 5,000 videos tagged "royal wedding" uploaded to YouTube over the past week.

For those unable to view the live streaming video of the wedding on the BBC's website, the popular alternative was Livestream, which partnered with the Associated Press, Entertainment Tonight and others to broadcast the event online. At 6:00 a.m. EST this morning, the company reported that, with 300,000 concurrent viewers, the stream of Will and Kate broke company records. CEO Max Haot told Mashable that he was anticipating "at least 2 million unique viewers" before the broadcast ended.

Millions of Livestream viewers and millions of related tweets. Those are impressive numbers, both, but the ultimate indicator of just how interested online users were in the royal wedding: During the week of April 25, the number of searches on Google for "Kate Middleton" surpassed that for "Lady Gaga."

Image: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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