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2000 Arrives Online

Donnie Nelson logged on to the Internet New Year's Eve to watch celebrations all the way across the country in downtown New York. Then he waited, and waited and waited.

Nelson, 25, of San Francisco was one of millions of computer users across the country who swamped Web sites as they watched millennium celebrations unfold around the world.

"I've got an extra fast Internet line, but I can't begin to open the Times Square site," said Nelson. "Still, I did get a look at Las Vegas and I can tell you I'm glad I'm not there."

The year 2000 arrived online with everything from the Navy's offering of the first sunrise of the millennium to the Times Square 2000 Web site, where viewers could watch the ball drop without getting jostled by others.

Keynote Systems Inc., a company that monitors Internet performance, said Web sites in some countries responded more slowly around midnight local time because of heavy traffic, but usage quickly returned to normal.

"Systems aren't crashing, but they are slowing down," said Dan Todd, Keynote's director of public services.

Thousands of those users were clicking on a site set up by EarthCam, which had put 100 Web cameras in 24 different time zones to broadcast live the beginning of the New Year.

The project was swamped with users as midnight rolled around more than 5,000 people were logging into the site per minute, according to Bruce Schwartz, EarthCam vice president of marketing.

"We were slammed," he said. "We were expecting, at the most, about 4,000 hits per minute. We love the idea that people are coming to us, but we're sorry that frustrated people aren't getting on."

A poll of America Online members showed 43 percent planned to log on to see what was happening in the virtual world on New Year's Eve. In response, AOL prepared a "Party of the Millennium" with chat rooms and live celebrations from 11 cities over 20 hours.

Romantic Web surfers eavesdropped on the nuptials of Cheryl Berthelsen and Matthew Beach, a Virginia couple who won an Internet auction spending $15,100 to have the "First Wedding of the Millennium."

To celebrate their wedding and the new millennium, the couple exchanged vows at midnight at Turtle Island in Fiji.

"Matt and I are thrilled to be married, and delighted that our exquisite wedding took place under such unique circumstances," said Berthelsen.

At America Online, spokesman Nicholas Graham said there was "an ebb and flow in Web traffic," between 600,000 and 1 million users at any given time.

Graham said this wasn't any new record, but that it definitely was busy "as usual."

In an ironic Y2K computer glitch, the nation's official timekeeper briefly reported the date as "19100" during the earliest hours of the new year on its Internet site.

The U.S. Naval Observatory, whose master clock in Washington servs as the nation's official source of time, published a Web page to track the time down to the precise second exactly as the century ended.

But a bug in the programming of the Web site informed visitors that the current date for U.S. time zones that had already passed midnight was Jan. 1, 19100.

Cmdr. Carl Rusnok of the Naval Observatory said the service's master clock was not affected by the problem. Navy technicians fixed the problem by 2:10 a.m. ET.

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