The Tsunami of 2004, Online Video’s First Major Event

Today marks the five year anniversary of the great Asian Tsunami of December 26th, 2004. This was a turning point for online video as it was the first time people from all around the world went online to watch. For all who now take online video for granted, this was even before Google Video. Here is a story I wrote about my own experience which happened just two months after I had launched Rocketboom:

“On a Sunday when I was writing the script and looking for news stories for the following Monday, I witnessed the tsunami go down online via the main stream media like cnn.com particular. So I knew the issue was so intense that there would be nothing else to say on Monday and so I spent all day looking for images and video and personal accounts – anything that I could find to "show”. This was something I had never done to this degree because I had never really had an impetus. But looking around for footage and pictures was what I would do for any event, big or small on a daily basis for Rocketboom so it started as just another day.

Anyway, I couldn’t find any videos on the day of, but I found two sites in Singapore that had about three people total who had posted a whole load of photos. So I believe I created perhaps the first tsunami video online that was a montage of the images with intense background music. While we did not have as much of a reach with our content at the time, we gained very high search return results for “tsunami video” apparently.

There was another major factor that led to the endurance of tsunami traffic: When Waxy and others like myself had accumulated the videos the next day, the same that also became really popular, I decided to turn them all into quicktime videos because there were none. As a result I was the only one serving the Quicktime files for several days and so probably all of those original batch videos that are out there that are quicktime, are generations from me (not to say that makes me special or anything, just pointing it out because i think its interesting), coincidentally. A few sites took these files and re-seeded them in bittorrent sites and then they quickly surpassed our search authority as it stacked against the time, I reckon. I assume Robin Good has an interesting tale to tell because we received a huge amount of traffic from his massive roundup as just one example.

[**aside: Of course I could not pay for the bandwidth and had the videos on the Parsons.edu server space. I brought the graduate multimedia sever down to a grinding halt (the same server that everyone uses to experiment with all kinds of wacky and powerful stuff). We couldn’t even get the server to deliver a 5k gif file until I renamed the videos and brought them back on slowly over days.

[**to the other aside: I watched as iFilm, the massively obnoxious and ad invasive leech site, learned a thing or two during this time as well about search return results. Of course with their link authority, they became the mainstream site to watch the tsunami videos as the only known option to a lot of people to start with. I remember later, on the day before the Superbowl this year, iFilm had posted all of the superbowl commercials, including all of the text and even video and image placeholders for ALL of the commercials in order to get them up first and to receive the best search results. So if you went to iFilm that night before the game, you could click on a bunch of superbowl commercials, which of course never loaded. But all of the advertisements surrounding the commercials were there and they were already making big bucks before they even copied the broadcasts and then posted the videos. Thats crummy of them and you can predict their behavior to be like this in the future too I suppose. I have noticed that over the last few months the obnoxiousness had gone way down, but its still pretty out-of-control for my tastes]“

Here are a couple of note now on YouTube:

For one of the best historical accounts of the various tsunami videos now, see:


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