Tsunami Pics Make .Mac #3 Fastest Growing Website (UPDATED)

Appleis .Mac service was the third fastest growing Website at work during the week ending January 16, thanks to the high volume of visitors to a collection of before and after photos of the South Asian tsunami posted by enthusiast Tony Demark, audience measurement and analysis service Nielsen/NetRatings reported Monday. The record numbers came only after Apple originally asked him to take down his site.

Usage jumped 56% during the reported week as 2.4 million unique visitors used .Mac, up from the prior weekis 1.5 million visitors, the company reported. In addition, .Mac saw a 24% increase in at-home traffic with 2 million unique visitors.

66% of the siteis traffic viewed one Web site: a personal Web page of Tony Demark that posted "before and after" satellite images of tsunami devastation areas in South Asia.

Mr. Demarkis photo library shows comparisons satellite photos of Sri Lanka and Indonesia, hard hit by a tsunami that battered South Asia on Dec. 26, 2004. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake off the northern coast of Indonesia set off tsunamis in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. The tsunami claimed more than 220,000 lives in 12 nations, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India.

Site owner surprised by usage

Mr. Demark, an independent technology consultant from Skippack, Pennsylvania, was very surprised to hear his site has had so much interest.

"Iim surprised the site has had that much impact, "Mr. Demark told The Mac Observer. "I knew there was a lot of traffic going to .Mac. I just didnit realize how much of it would have counted for that much percentage of .Macis traffic."

Mr. Demark said he estimates the amount of traffic so far to be about 55 to 60 million page views since he launched the site on the afternoon of Dec. 31.

"Thatis amazing, considering that all I ever did was e-mail six people saying, ihey, check this out.i"

Mr. Demark built his site as one of 18 mirrored online homes that are housing satellite photos from Longmont, Colo.-based global imagery company DigitalGlobe, Inc. A visitor can quickly toggle between a before and after pic that are overlayed on each other to view the differences without having to reload images, as compared to other sites that have been showing the images side-by-side.

"The mirrors are all pointing to .Mac," Mr. Demark said. "When someone goes to the site, they will always get the page from .Mac, but the images might be pulled from a different mirror site."

Between Jan. 6 and 11 when the site was getting its highest traffic, Apple e-mailed Mr. Demark asking him to take down his site or come up with some other arrangement to host it. "So I made the page smaller, so there was less demand on their servers," he said. "I also put the image mirrors on line that helped ease the situation, so their site is only hosting the HTML and not the images."

As an example, Mr. Demark said that after he moved the images to a different server, traffic on .Mac went from 3 terabytes of data usage to 20 gigabytes.

The photos have been widely distributed by showing the devastation the high waters and flooding caused to coastal towns and villages, many that are just feet above sea level. Groups ranging from media outlets to the U.S. government, the United Nations, foreign governments, and global aid organizations are using the photos to assess damage and determine where help is needed most.

Mr. Demark said comments from viewers of the photos have ranged from shocking to thankful.

"The majority of the reaction has been to thank me for the way I posted the images and to say that until they saw the images this way, they had no idea how bad the devastation had been."

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