The death of Apple founder Steve Jobs provoked an online outpouring of grief likely to smash records, an Australian firm said on Thursday as mourners took to the Internet to pay tribute to the tech guru.
Social media sites sagged under the weight of Jobs-related posts, with five of the top ten topics trending worldwide on Twitter about the Apple pioneer, including #ThankYouSteve and #iSad.
Two of his catchcries, "Think Different" and "Stay Hungry" were also top of the trends, with the chatter so immense it caused Twitter to seize up, dispatching its famous "fail whale" to indicate a traffic jam.
It was likely to break records for the most talked-about Internet event of all time, with monitoring agency SR7 estimating it had hit a massive 10,000 tweets per second and was likely to rise, social media analysts said.
"It has the potential to pass the all-time social media interactivity level, particularly on the Twitter platform where it will probably be in excess of 10,000 tweets per second," said Peter Fraser, co-founder of Australian social media monitoring agency SR7. "We're awaiting the official Twitter data to be released, however, from the numbers that we've been monitoring through the day since the announcement it's certainly been trending to break that record."
The present record -8,868 tweets per second -was set when US singer Beyonce announced her pregnancy at the MTV awards.
By comparison, the killing of Osama bin Laden saw about 5,000 tweets per second, and Michael Jackson's 2009 death produced about 493 tweets per second.
The response to Jobs' death was an "extraordinary phenomenon", driven by posts from an unprecedented number of celebrities, politicians and other influential figures - each with massive online followings of their own, said Fraser. "What you're seeing across platforms is a remarkable level of interactivity," he said.
"When you look at the kinds of people that are commenting ... it is a plethora of highly influential people around the world, each of whom have enormous followings in their own right, who are really building that momentum," he said.
And it was not likely to have peaked yet, he added, with the news breaking late at night in the US.
"One would expect that the trend again picks up when the rest of the world comes online," said Fraser.