As the bride climbs into her dress, the groom adjusts his cufflinks, the 1,900 invited guests arrive, and chefs make final preparations for the festivities to follow the ceremony, popular websites like YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter will be tuning their systems for a surge of wedding watchers.
In less than 24 hours, Prince William will marry Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London, England. It's the first British royal wedding in the age of the modern internet, and the monarchy promises to make it an internet-friendly event. Tomorrow's celebration will be streamed live via YouTube, and the official royal-wedding website will post status updates to Twitter and Facebook; so will about 400 million of the royal family's biggest fans, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The anticipated increase in online traffic for tomorrow's royal wedding could bring the internet to a frustratingly slow crawl and may topple some of the web's premier destinations. Matt Graves, a spokesman for Twitter.com, said his site is ready for the deluge of wow-look-at-that-dress tweets that will inevitably arrive as Kate walks down the aisle.
As seen above, Twitter posted a photo of its co-founder, Biz Stone, mounting a single Xserve labelled "Wills & Kate" in preparation for the big event. The picture prompted the not-actually-official TwitterGlobalPR account to snipe, "Rumours of Twitter needing extra servers for the Royal Wedding are greatly exaggerated. We only need one." Of course, the photo is intended as a joke -- everyone knows Twitter's infrastructure runs on the Mac mini.
Historically, major news and events have caused trouble for popular websites. Twitter, for example, displayed a boatload of fail whales after Michael Jackson died in 2009 and during the World Cup and Wimbledon in 2010. The simultaneous sporting tournaments generated the highest traffic in the internet's history when over 10 million links were clicked per minute, according to Akamai.
Will the internet survive Prince William and Kate Middleton's big day? We'll all find out at 11:00 am London time on Friday, April 29.