Twitter's first noticeable stumble came just after 9:30 when the site didn't come up for some users for about seven minutes. It came back but was in trouble again just before 10 p.m. ET but the site struggled with slow load times and partially loaded pages off and on through at least 11 p.m.
Despite Twitter's efforts to keep up with the onslaught of usage, the site noted that one of the most-tweeted moments of the debate came when Romney said he loves Big Bird but would cut funding to PBS.
Shortly after, Twitter reported there were 17,000 tweets per minute for "Big Bird" and 10,000 tweets per minute for "PBS."
Facebook wasn't being left out of it, either. Images of Sesame Street's Big Bird holding a sign that reads, "Will work for food" quickly began showing up on the social network.
Big Bird also showed up in the running list of debate-related topics, such as #debates, Jim Lehrer and #PresidentialDebate2012, that began appearing in Twitter's top 10 trending topics hours before the debate even began.
Both the Obama and the Romney campaigns were trying to get as much play on the social networks as possible. Both political camps set up Web sites that promoted tweets and potential social network postings, offering suggestions for what users could post and retweet.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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