Mobile Future

Wireless Woodstock comes to Washington

It’s a new day and things will never again be the same.

No, I’m not talking about the new Administration since others at HuffPo have already captured that moment’s magic. Instead I’m talking about the inauguration itself. Matt Richtel at The New York Times had it right – it was "a wireless Woodstock."

When it came to coverage, the three traditional news sources – the TV nets, radio, the wires – had company: the mobile phone user.

Never in U.S. history has a single event been so well documented from so many different angles as this inauguration. More important, never before have ordinary onlookers been so integral to the coverage.

For mobile users and app writers alike, this was the equivalent of opening night on Broadway. Take a look:

  • A company called PointAbout created a special GPS-related app for the inauguration that guided users to the Mall via Metro or street directions. It also offered to find free hotspots, inaugural balls and the nearest Starbucks.
  • CNN, The New York Times and other MSM actively solicited emails of real-time photos and commentary. Leading up to the inaugural, their homepages encouraged mobile users to send clips, vids and comments. Throughout the day, they displayed the images.
  • Qik streamed camera-phone videos from visitors.
  • The image-sharing site Photobucket put its Inauguration Day photos on a separate, dedicated server. No word on how many photos have been uploaded but the company usually handles 7-10 million uploads a day.
  • The social media website FriendFeed rolled out a 300 percent increase in server capacity to handle inaugural and post-inaugural traffic.

None of this happened by accident. CNN reported that mobile carriers increased capacity by as much as 70 percent and it seems to have paid off.

So in addition to the inauguration staff, there’s one more group that deserves to take a bow: tens of thousands of mobile users who gave the nation a unique view of a great event.

Originally posted on Huffington Post, January 22, 2009