The world continues to mourn the death of Michael Jackson. On Thursday night, as millions of people sought news and information about the late star, news sites and search engines such as Google struggled to cope with the avalanche of concurrent users.

Commentators have compared the impact of Jackson’s sudden death to that of other cultural icons such as Elvis, John Lennon and Princess Diana.

Celebrities and friends of the singer continued to express their shock and sadness at his passing. Actress Elizabeth Taylor, said to be one of Jackson’s closest friends, issued a statement saying that she was packing to go to London for the opening show in his comeback series of concerts when she heard the news.

“My heart … my mind are broken. I loved Michael with all my soul and I can’t imagine life without him. We had so much in common and we had such loving fun together,” she said. “I don’t think anyone knew how much we loved each other. The purest, most giving love I’ve ever known. Oh God! I’m going to miss him. I can’t yet imagine life without him. I guess with God’s help … I’ll learn.”

In a statement, Diana Ross, who was once rumoured to be the subject of Jackson’s hit Dirty Diana, said: “I can’t stop crying, this is too sudden and shocking. I am unable to imagine this. My heart is hurting. I am in prayer for his kids and the family.”

Pop singer Britney Spears described Jackson as a lifelong inspiration.”I’m devastated he’s gone,” she said.

In her online blog Jackson’s ex-wife, Lisa Marie Presley, commented on their marriage for the first time. She said that, contrary to what was often reported, their almost two year marriage “was not ‘a sham'”.

She added that “It was an unusual relationship, yes, where two unusual people who did not live or know a ‘normal life’ found a connection, perhaps with some suspect timing on his part. Nonetheless, I do believe he loved me as much as he could love anyone and I loved him very much.”

She said that she had long feared that Jackson would have an untimely death: “I wanted to save him from the inevitable, which is what has just happened. The hardest decision I have ever had to make, which was to walk away and let his fate have him, even though I desperately loved him and tried to stop or reverse it somehow.”

Radio stations around the world and in South Africa dedicated much of their airtime on Friday to play Jackson’s songs, while his music soared to the top of music download sites such as ITunes. On, Jackson’s albums and concerts took over every spot on the online retailer’s top ten CD and DVD sales.

It was reported that out of respect for the singer’s death, producers decided at the last minute to cut a scene from Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming film Brüno, which involved Jackson’s sister, LaToya.

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