Huge leap in Web traffic following assault on Iraq

MUMBAI: The US-led invasion of Iraq has led to a jump in traffic on the Internet, which is expected to become the major source of information on the conflict for many people. 

The Internet has increasingly emerged as a key source for news, communication and comfort during major events, especially after the 11 September attacks on the United States. Just as important is the fact that happens to offer the greatest variety of opinion among all media vehicles.

The conflict with Iraq will be the biggest war involving the United States since the Internet became a major medium. Which is the biggest difference from what was the situation in 1991, where the Internet was in very early stages of development. and the cable networks were the dominant source for breaking news for many people.

The immediate fallout of the US-led attacks on the Internet of course have been that it has blown away sex as the most popular search term.

"War was our top search term today (Thursday), taking over from perennial favourites - sex, Britney and travel," Nadia Schofield, a spokeswoman for Freeserve, Britain's largest Internet service provider, was quoted as saying in a Reuters report.

An indicator of just the kind of dynamics that is driving Web traffic in these troubled times is the fact that "Iraq" knocked female country music group "Dixie Chicks" out of the top spot among on Yahoo's Buzz Index ( of popular search terms among US Internet users.

The Dixie Chicks sank to number three on the Yahoo index behind Iraq and rising rap singing star "50 Cent".

Dixie Chicks have had their chart-topping songs, including current number one single "Travelin' Soldier", pulled from many US radio playlists after they criticised Bush's war plans in Iraq.

The Texas trio have been lambasted in events around the United States where their CDs have been burned and smashed by angry fans. Conversely that has only fuelled interest among Web users in the group.

And for those who see this in terms of business opportunities, Reuters reports that the share value of major listed online firms have gone up. Shares in online auctioneer eBay Inc., Internet bookseller Inc. and travel Web site Expedia Inc. hit 52-week highs on Thursday as investors looked for safe havens as the US-led invasion on Iraq intensified.

The shares are at their highest level since April 2000. They remain about 30 per cent under their split-adjusted, all-time high of $127.50 reached in March 2000, just before the Internet bubble burst.

Re-$ exchange rate: US$1 = Rs 47.68

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