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Web swoons as Jackson dies

Shock death trips up news sites, concert venue

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The death of Michael Jackson yesterday brought US websites low as fans old and instant sought to confirm they were indeed experiencing their own JFK moment.

Gossip site TMZ is credited with being the first to report that the 50 year old Jackson had been found unconscious at his LA home and had been taken to hospital after paramedics failed to revive him. Jackson reportedly never regained consciousness, and his brother Jermaine announced Michael's death at 2.26pm LA time.

The report was quickly picked up by the mainstream press and the blogosphere, both of which promptly began to buckle under the strain as page load times stretched even as headline writers trotted out "The Day the Music Died" headlines.

Meanwhile, Wikipedians apparently worked themselves up into a frenzy as editors sought to fight off other editors who repeatedly added updates on Jackson's condition. No doubt they are currently trawling Jackson-related entries to locate any Ronnie Hazelhurst-style pranksters. (Was Jackson's best friend in the 70s really a rat? What was the thing with the glove? etc.)

Twitter search crumpled too as fans old and new attempted to make sense of it all.

Further evidence that the web does not move at the speed of thought quickly mounted this morning, as Europeans who'd gone to bed at a sensible time on Thursday woke up to (analogue) radio reports of Jackson's death.

As of 8am this morning, the website for the O2 Arena was still advertising tickets for Jackson's massive 40 gig comeback engagement at the venue. By 10am, the site had a note saying ticketing information would be released "in due course".

Meanwhile, in the early hours, NME's website carried news of the singer's demise, alongside adverts for secondary ticket sales for the O2 gigs.

And Amazon demonstrated that there were plenty of Jackson fans who didn't actually own any of his records, with its Top Ten bestselling CDs now exclusively made up of Jackson albums.

Still, while the web demonstrated that it is not always the best medium for finding out the news that really matters, we can probably rely on it for all the inevitable follow-on.

We can expect floods of tributes, detailing how Jackson changed the face of pop music (a reasonable claim) was the biggest record seller in history (probably) and invented the moonwalk (absolutely not).

This will be quickly followed by floods of revelations about the singer's murky private life, now that libel restrictions no longer reply - at least in the UK.

Closer to home, we can expect hordes of people asking for advice on whether they can get their money back on tickets to a large empty arena in South East London.

But first of all, we can expect a flood of malware spam, likely promising post-mortem pictures of the star's body. ®

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