Web traffic exploded on Election Day, as people went online in droves to follow the returns and share either their joy for Barack Obama or commiserate in John McCain's defeat.
It was the first presidential election where the world of Web 2.0 — of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Digg — was thoroughly interwoven with the day's experience.
But while it was a historic day for the Web, it still was a reminder that during a major event the Internet still essentially functions best as a supplement to television.
Yes, TV can look silly covering an election. The networks boasted all kinds of fancy gadgets to lure viewers, none more outlandish than CNN's holograms.
Ultimately, to get the election results in real-time and get a feel for the evening's drama, TV still reigns supreme thanks to its live broadcasts, a sense of gravitas and expansive shots of cheering crowds.
To be sure, it was a record day for the Internet and many of its news and social sites. The Web site Hitwise.com has compiled a ranking of the day's traffic on news sites. CNN.com had the most traffic, followed by MSNBC, FOXNews, the Drudge Report, The New York Times, FOXNews.com Elections, USA Today, ABCNews.com and the Huffington Post.
Not included in those rankings were Yahoo News (whose traffic topped all) and Google News, which also saw a huge surge in traffic. MSNBC.com's "Decision '08 Dashboard" had more than 107 million page views on Election Day.
Twitter set a record for its messaging, and the news aggregator Digg also had its greatest traffic. YouTube was flooded with videos (including many for its "Video Your Vote" project with PBS). Steve Grove, head of news and politics at the Google-owned YouTube, said YouTube received "thousands and thousands and thousands" of election related videos.
Many newspapers recorded record numbers for their Web pages. On Facebook, it seemed as though nearly everyone expressed some comment about the election.
News sites also had various coverage of the state-by-state returns and informative graphics with which to follow the tallies.
All of this was good, especially if you wanted information on local elections that might have been given scant attention on the presidential election-dominated TV coverage. Also, the speeches by Obama and McCain could be watched live on video sites.
But if you really wanted to get a feel for the evening and a colored sense for places like Grant Park in Chicago or the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, television remained your best bet.
The Web was more useful as a way of sharing personal, individual reactions to the event: sending Tweets, posting a video on YouTube, writing comments on Facebook.
But, after all, who does drama better than TV? In an election universally considered monumental, this was an epic two-year soap opera.
The Web was perhaps more informative and gave you more control over your news, but television was the more effective communicator of The Moment. That was evidenced by the crowds that gathered in bars to follow the results, or swarmed Times Square to watch on the JumboTron.
In the end, Election Day was as much a triumph of old media as new. The day after, even newspapers across the country sold-out.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.