While President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney were dueling it out over the hot-button campaign issues last night, little did they know the debate was becoming the most-tweeted about political event in U.S. history, topping the tweet-per-minute records set by the Republican and Democratic National Conventions just a month ago. In fact, in the 24 hours prior to last night’s debate, there were already more tweets about it than there were about all four presidential debates in 2008.
The real activity came, though, during the heart of the debate between 9 p.m. EDT and 10:30 p.m. EDT. During these 90 minutes, the first 2012 presidential debate generated 10.3 million tweets.
Not surprisingly, this is also where Twitter’s performance stumbled. In the hour leading up to the start of the debate (8 p.m. EDT, 17:00 PDT in the graph below) Twitter’s response times began to slow. The delay grew as the debate got underway, with response times peaking at nearly 90 seconds at approximately 10 p.m. EDT — right in the midst of the tweeting frenzy. The pure volume of visitors and tweets per second were slowing the system down, causing users to “wait for response.”
Check back next week to see how Twitter’s traffic and performance during the second presidential debate compare to last night’s milestones.