Twitter quietly grows up; handles its scandal

Twitter quietly grows up; handles its scandal

Summary: While no one was looking, Twitter grew up. Amid an outage on a scale its users have not seen in months, if not a year, the microblogging site showed how it reached "tech maturity".


Amazon and Twitter both saw this week how much the world relies on their services.

First, Amazon suffered a patch of downtime following a power failure in a North Virginia datacenter --- leading to a number of high-profile sites falling with it --- and many jumped to Twitter to complain.

Ironically, it was Twitter's turn to stumble a few days later. But the microblogging site's recent downtime generated a lot more buzz than one might have expected. Twitter goes down all the time, right?


Its users have become accustomed to Twitter "just working." People don't notice when a service is working: they only notice its absence when it's not. Only when the site failed to load with the once-favorite error message of the web --- the "Fail Whale" --- did its users start to wonder what was wrong.

Twitter has, over the past year, quietly reached a level of maturity en par with that of Facebook or any other major web service.

It's grown up. It's no longer the startup it once was. It became fully-fledged Web service, amid the acne, the growing pains, and the fallings out with its parents.

In its early days, even Google was temperamental. It would work, it wouldn't work. It's hard to think of that now. Back then, there was less of a search monopoly and fewer websites anyway. We knew exactly where to get our content from with or without a search engine.

And if not, we had AltaVista or Yahoo as firm and reliable backups.

But should Google stumble for more than ten minutes, the Web would be abuzz with concern for the company's stability --- and no doubt its stock price.

To see the level of outpouring to other social media sites during the outage shows just how far Twitter has come in the past six months to a year. Downtime of more than five minutes would still go mostly unnoticed. We still expect a level of instability --- as though we're collectively suffering from a post-traumatic experience --- but nothing could prepare us for an outage on this scale.

Compared proportionally to a year ago, this week's outage was a major one.

Had Twitter been hacked? Was Twitter's office move to blame? Had someone tripped over the master power cable?

No. It was just a bug. A cascading bug to be precise.

Twitter's vice president of engineering Mazen Rawashdehexplained on the company blog that it has seen "at least 99.96 percent" reliability, more "often 99.99 percent" during the past six months.

In fact, it's had a pretty good patch of uptime since it redesigned and rebuilt its infrastructure from the ground up. The company has effectively discarded its "playful" Fail Whale because on the most part, it doesn't need it anymore.

Dear Twitter, in the face of criticism and users complaining over the "scandal" of a downed service, with poise and maturity you fared the outage well. Amid the focus on the downtime, you should instead be applauded for a year of strong reliability.

Welcome to the grown-up club.

Image credit: Twitter.




Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • Downtime is not a "scandal"

    A scandal is when a company [b]intentionally[/b] does something wrong. An outage does not qualify as a scandal.
    • Exactly

      A scandal would have been the password list being exposed or stolen or they had started censoring tweets for no reason, downtime is not a scandal.
      • Look beyond the headline, folks.

        Did you get any further than the summary?
      • Oh it's a great article.

        "Did you get any further than the summary?"

        Oh, it's a great article. Don't get me wrong.

        But reprimand the headline writer.
  • "...but nothing could prepare us for an outage on this scale." - Seriously?

    NEW YORK (AP) -- In one of the largest social media disasters in US history, Obama administration officials confirmed that Twitter was completely offline Thursday for at least an hour. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would not speculate on what the nationwide death toll could have been. Fox News has reported worldwide deaths could number in the tens of millions, but this could not be confirmed.

    Internet physicists at the CERN research facility in Europe say they have no explanation for the outage at this time. There is speculation, however, that it may have been caused by a gravitational fluctuation in local space-time, or that the one wire that was frayed last month just shorted out. The physicists added they told that guy Steve to change the wire out, but "...he's always high anyway, so you can't get him to do anything." Steve was unavailable for comment.

    In a related development, it has been reported that Kathy, a senior technical manager at Electrocorp Industries in Atlanta, claims her project has been completed three weeks ahead of schedule. Said Kathy, "I'm not sure what happened. Everyone was saying at lunch they might not be able to make deadline, and suddenly it's on my desk, as if by magic."

    When asked if the twitter outage and the sudden surge in productivity may have been related, Kathy claimed to not understand the question.
  • Emergency!!!!!!

    Wow, things must be going pretty well for us if this is a crisis. I thought Aids, Genocide, Terrorists, economic meltdown etc. all qualified as "scandals" and "catastrophes". Thanks for setting me straight.
    James Keenan
  • Not a scandal, for sure

    Oh this is definitely not a scandal nor is a crisis. A certain amount of downtime is quiet common for a small period of time. This doesn't make twitter to go down like that, it wont hamper its popularity.

    - Sara
  • What was that?

    Was there a complete or coherent idea in the whole article?
  • Fail Whale

    I missed it. When that failed to load I thought something was really wrong. I hate being right like that.