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Lessons From Star Wars: How The Force Awakens Impacted the Internet

Lessons From Star Wars: How The Force Awakens Impacted the Internet

lessons from star wars

There has been an awakening. Have you felt it? It happened on social media.

The buzz surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh film in the Star Wars saga, had been building for quite some time. Upon its release, it delivered. To put it mildly. Thus far the list of box office records its steamrolled includes the biggest worldwide opening of all time, the highest-grossing film of all time in the US and Canada, and the fastest film to gross $1 billion, taking just 12 days to reach that massive amount.

However, it wasn’t just booming box office business that helped The Force Awakens reach true global phenomenon status. The release of this movie also did the unthinkable: it got people to disconnect from the internet. But that was after it set social media on fire, of course. Read on to find out what the latest Star Wars movie did to the internet and what site owners should take away from this phenomenon.

How The Force Awakens put the internet to sleep

If the ultimate sign of Star Wars fandom was lining up in absurdly long queues to get seats at the first showing of the new film, then the ultimate sign of respect was those same fans putting their smartphones in their pockets and keeping them there.

Content delivery network and internet security provider Imperva Incapsula monitored online traffic on their network at the time of the first IMAX showing in a number of countries and compared it to average traffic numbers at the same time of day from December 2nd to December 15th. What they found was surprising in this always-online world of ours.

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Germany experienced a whopping 11.7% decrease in internet traffic, the biggest decrease Imperva Incapsula observed. The UK experienced an 8.7% decrease, while France trailed just behind with an 8% decrease. Russia’s traffic fell 6.9%, while the US and Canada stayed a little more plugged in with decreases of 4.09% and 3.64%, respectively.

lessons from star wars

The web traffic patterns by country. Full resolution photo can be found here.

Imperva Incapsula speculates that not only can these stunning decreases be accounted for by enraptured audiences avoiding their phones, but also by Star Wars fans avoiding going online when the movie released (and installing specialized browser extensions when they did) in order to staunchly avoid spoilers.

How The Force Awakens also lit social media and fan pages on fire

Tanking online traffic wasn’t the only effect Star Wars had on the internet, of course. Prior to either distracting fans from the internet or keeping them offline due to fear of spoilers on opening weekend, the movie drove historic amounts of traffic on social media.

From January to November of 2015 there were a total of 234 million interactions on The Force Awakens’ official social media sites. The 30 days immediately leading up to the film’s release alone saw 126 million interactions on Facebook from 53 million users worldwide – 5% of Facebook’s worldwide users. The same 30 days also saw 2.8 million tweets with the #StarWars hashtag.

As unwieldy as these numbers may seem, they pale in comparison to the social media interactions brought by opening weekend. Sixty-four million Facebook users – ones who presumably weren’t avoiding spoilers – had 140 million interactions. (The 2015 Academy Awards, in comparison, garnered 58 million interactions.)

The traffic onslaught wasn’t limited to social media sites. Wookieepedia on wikia.com, which is the world’s largest Star Wars fansite, had a record-breaking 45 million page views and 11,600 edits on opening weekend. A total of 56% of that traffic was from outside of the United States.

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Lessons a site owner can learn from a global phenomenon

The first lesson is that it’s probably pretty beneficial to be the creator of the world’s largest Star Wars fansite, but since that lesson isn’t all that applicable, it’s time to talk about content delivery networks, or CDNs.

Though shifts in internet traffic may not be as dramatic as the ones associated with The Force Awakens, they’re happening all the time, and global internet traffic continues to rise. According to Cisco, global IP traffic increased more than fivefold over the last five years, and is expected to increase almost threefold over the next five years.

Websites need to be increasingly prepared to provide optimal performance for not only large influxes of traffic, but also to users located all over the world. The multipurpose solution to both of these issues – as well as a host of other issues including DDoS attacks – is a content delivery network.

A content delivery network is a network of servers located all over the globe that optimize a website’s speed and performance. The multi-server environment is designed to provide load balancing, enabling it to handle large influxes of traffic. And the international locations of the servers allows each user to be redirected to the server closest to them, giving them the fastest possible response time and best possible website performance.

May the force (of a global network of servers) be with you.

This post was written by Debbie Fletcher, an enthusiastic, experienced writer who has written for a range of different magazines and news publications over the years. Graduating from City University London specialising in English Literature, Debbie’s passion for writing has since grown. She loves anything and everything technology, and exploring different cultures across the world. She’s currently looking towards starting her Masters in Comparative Literature in the next few years.

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