Balancing a load

On February 3, 1999, after unveiling to the world its intentions three days earlier with a US$1.6 million, 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl, Victoria’s Secret broadcast its first streaming video fashion show on the Web.

The results were astounding: more than two million viewers logged on to the Internet to view the risque revealings of the lingerie retailer’s world famous models. Bandwidth problems prevented 25 per cent of those users from even accessing Victoria’s Secret’s site, but the 1.5 million viewers who did manage to eventually download the live Webcast that evening smashed host’s previous record of 1 million viewers, recorded during the airing of U.S. President Bill Clinton’s videotaped deposition to prosecutor Kenneth Starr during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Victoria’s Secret paraded out its second live fashion show this past May 18. This time, models pranced the catwalk in their underwear for more than two million viewers. Though some had to wait in a Victoria’s Secret “e-lounge” until bandwidth space became available, no one was denied access to the site’s home page.

What does all this teach us? Number one, sex still sells, as evidenced by both Victoria’s Secret and Clinton. And number two, the technology that Web sites can use to handle heavy traffic is improving.