— The crush of traffic by Apple users to download a mobile operating system upgrade didn't break the Internet Wednesday, but certainly tested it, with some Internet service providers saying they'd never seen anything like it.
"This is worse than World Cup traffic!" said AAISP, an ISP in Britain late Wednesday, as engineers there tried to figure out what was behind the activity. By Thursday morning they thought they had their answer: "We are guessing this was IOS 5 release."
Apple's own servers were bombarded with requests for the free upgrade, iOS 5, for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, which has more than 200 new features and is a sizable download: for the iPhone 4, it can be more than 780 MB.
Akamai, which provides streaming-media services for more than 300 news websites, including msnbc.com as well as other companies, said while it can't discuss traffic numbers for any one company, Wednesday clearly respresented a deluge.
"The Akamai Intelligent Platform set a peak traffic record serving more than 8.5 terabytes per second of traffic on behalf of its customers (in total)," said Akamai spokesman Jeff Young. "That is about double our average day."
Many users got a host of frustrating error messages Wednesday when they tried to do the upgrade. On Thursday, Apple posted answers on a support page as to what those error messages mean.
One of the most common messages, "Error 3200" — which even trended on Twitter Wednesday — had a simple explanation, despite the frightening message it gave: "The device could not be restored. An internal error occurred."
What is it really? "This indicates a network-connectivity or traffic issue. If you see this error, wait an hour or more and try again," Apple says.
Meanwhile, some users reported losing their email access with the launch of iCloud, an online communications, media storage and backup service, part of iOS 5.
And it was a little too reminiscent, perhaps, of 2008, when Apple launched MobileMe, a kind of precursor to iCloud, and left 1 percent of MobileMe customers without email for several days, and longer in some cases.
iCloud "failed in a very nasty way in that mail sometimes vanished, sometimes appeared then vanished, and often there was a user and/or password-incorrect message plus some rather obscure additional error messages," said David Farber, a professor of engineering and public policy with Carnegie Mellon University.
"The behavior suggests program problems," added Farber, a well-known computer scientist.
In an update on its Web page for iCloud's "system status," Apple said: "Some users were experiencing intermittent authentication errors when trying to use mail. Normal service has been restored. We apologize for any inconvenience."
Other problems Apple reported as having resolved included: intermittent slowness when signing in to iCloud, users unable to back up their data, and delays receiving verification emails from Apple.
Apple spokespersons did not immediately return calls seeking comment.