Deal-hungry shoppers flocked to the Internet on Monday, beating last year's post-Thanksgiving pace and overwhelming a retail industry website offering hundreds of special offers.

North American retail website traffic reached 2,145,558 visitors per minute at 2 p.m. ET Monday, says Internet service provider Akamai Technologies. That's up 19% from the peak on Cyber Monday last year. Although traffic dipped around 5 p.m. ET, it was still over 2 million visitors per minute at 9 p.m.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, when workers are back at their desks with their employers' fast Internet connections, is considered the start of the online holiday shopping season. It was the second-busiest Internet shopping day in 2005, surpassed only by Dec. 12, the last day many online retailers offered free shipping by Christmas. crashed for at least two hours after it released online-only specials at 5 a.m. ET Friday. Wal-Mart said traffic increased sevenfold while the company only expected it to double.

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