The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton will be streamed on the internet via YouTube, accompanied with a live multi-media blog put together by palace officials.
Royal wedding to take place in cyberspace
LONDON // The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton will not only take place at Westminster Abbey on Friday. It will also take place in cyberspace.
Aside from the billion-plus television audience expected worldwide, the digital generation will be able to follow the day's events in a way unthought of even a decade ago.
For the first time, a British royal wedding will be streamed on the internet via YouTube, accompanied with a live multi-media blog put together by palace officials.
There will be live updates on the day on Twitter and on the official wedding site, www.officialroyalwedding2011.org, while photographs will be released via the picture-sharing site Flickr.
"They want the wedding to be as accessible to as many people as possible and that's why they are communicating in this way," said an official spokesman for the couple.
It was a sign of the times that, last November, the official announcement of the engagement was not only made by traditional news release but also, simultaneously, on the Twitter site of Clarence House, the prince's official residence in London.
Enthusiasts have been able to follow subsequent developments on the royals' Facebook, YouTube and Flickr sites, as well as on the Buckingham Palace website.
More remarkably, perhaps, a recording of the entire wedding will be available to download on iTunes within hours of Friday's service finishing at a cost of £8 (Dh48), though individual sections - pieces of music and the exchange of vows, for instance - will be available for a fraction of that price.
More conventional CDs and vinyl recordings will not be available until May 5.
"In using these social media sites, we are able to communicate with a wider audience in new and creative ways," explained Nick Loughran, Prince William's press secretary.
For all the emphasis on the digital world, opinion polls taken since the engagement announcement have consistently shown that it is the older, rather than younger, generation who are the keenest on the affair.
In a post-engagement poll for the British newspaper, Sunday Mirror, little more than half of the respondents aged 18 to 24 were excited by the prospect of the wedding, while 68 per cent of those aged over 65 were.
Seventy per cent of women were looking forward to the event, compared with only 51 per cent of men across all age ranges.
And a poll conducted last month by ICM for Republic - an anti-monarchist campaign group in the UK - suggested that 79 per cent of people surveyed were "largely indifferent" or "couldn't care less" about the wedding.
Young people at an internet café on the outskirts of London seemed to share this indifference.
"I really can't be bothered to watch it," said one undergraduate, "though we're planning a party in the afternoon - it's a good excuse for that."
An unemployed teenager said she "would probably have to watch it because my mum will have it on the TV, but I'm not bothered either way".
Graham Smith, a spokesman for Republic, said: "There is widespread apathy about the wedding, we're seeing that right across the country. "Of course, there are some people who are excited, there are many who are utterly opposed to the monarchy, and there are many who simply don't care."
"The British public are simply not excited about the royals anymore. This marks a significant shift from 30 years ago."
A similar lack of interest was evident in the United States. A poll conducted earlier this year for 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair showed that 65 per cent of the 1,058 Americans questioned had no interest at all in the wedding.
Only four per cent of those surveyed said they wished they could attend the event while 21 per cent of Americans regarded it as a "harmless spectacle".
Britons with similar sentiments have taken advantage of the rash of official holidays over the period to book family breaks abroad.
Given the four-day Easter break last weekend, the official national holiday for the wedding this Friday, and the May Day bank holiday on Monday, many employees worked out that they could have a 12-day break, yet only take three days off their annual leave entitlement.
Not that you will have to be in the UK, or even near a TV screen abroad, to follow Friday's events. Apart from computer webcasts, plenty of mobile phone apps - including an official one telling the story of seven past royal weddings and another offering a virtual tour of Westminster Abbey as Miss Middleton will see it - have been released.
And on the big day itself, those phones - along with thousands of digital cameras - will be clicking away recording the event, taking an estimated 327 million pictures, according to a survey conducted for Nikon last week.
Of those pictures, about 65 million will end up on social networking sites, according to the survey. Arthur Edwards, the veteran royal photographer for The Sun newspaper, said the most coveted shot would be the one of that first public kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
"Half of the photographers missed the iconic balcony kiss in 1981 at Charles and Diana's wedding because they were changing film," added Mr Edwards with a smile.
The arrival of the digital age means that embarrassment, at least, should be avoided on Friday.