You Know It's Big When Twitter Makes The News
June 21, 2012

You Know It’s Big When Twitter Makes The News

Michael Harper for

Nothing like a good, old-fashioned Twitter outage to show us just how much we rely on Internet technology. Of course, no one´s life really depends on Twitter, but it has become a bit of a normality, something engrained in our everyday lives. It´s just as the saying goes, you don´t know what you´ve got till it´s gone.

There are all manner of other cliches I could employ here, but the bottom line is, Twitter went down today and the Internet flipped out.

As you may have noticed, Twitter has been pretty hit and miss today. Normally, Twitter is a safe place to vent about your friends–Facebook or otherwise–and co-workers without fear of judgment.  If Twitter goes down, where can we turn to release our frustrations?

According to Pingdom, the outages began just before lunch, staying down for about an hour. The Fail Whale appeared once again about an hour later. That is, of course, if the Fail Whale was still Twitter´s mascot. Over at their status blog, Twitter wrote, “Users may be experiencing issues accessing Twitter. Our engineers are currently working to resolve the issue.” Then, later: “Update: The issue is on-going and engineers are working to resolve it.”

Later, Twitter´s PR stream sent out a message, saying, “Today's outage is due to a cascaded bug in one of our infrastructure components. We'll provide updated information soon.”

According to, hacker group UGNazi is claiming to have taken the site down with a DDoS attack.

(What one gains from taking out the relatively happy and care-free land of Twitter, I don´t know. Never has such intelligence been wasted on such a large group of people as cyber-criminals and malicious hackers.)

I digress“¦.

To their credit, this hour-long outage is the worst Twitter has encountered in several months. Those who have been using the site for any length of time are quite familiar with their notorious outages, thus, the Fail-Whale. In fact, the Whale became so commonplace in the Internet´s lexicon, Twitter officially dismissed the beast, wishing instead to be remembered for stability, not failing.

Good move, really.

Like any website, Twitter still experiences a few brief outages here and there. Though the site normally works quickly, any slight hiccup in the system is likely to turn heads.

At the time of this writing, however, Twitter seems to be working well. I was able to tweet out one of my favorite “King of the Hill” quotes, (I bet you feel like you´re missing out) and had my stream update instantly. A quick check to also shows Twitter is currently in its rightful place, though it appears as if it could be a bit unstable for the rest of the day.

As it turns out, actually has some Twitter roots. Alex Payne, a Twitter engineer, wrote in a 2008 blog post, “I made for a friend on a whim, utterly unconnected to my work at Twitter. I´ve spent maybe six hours on the site, total, ever.”

Mr. Payne, however, went on to say, “Of late, I´ve tried as much as possible to focus my time at Twitter on building a new system that works at scale and does so predictably and measurably. That´s not easy when the current system is still on fire. So much of the last year of my professional life has been spent reaching for buckets of water that it´s hard to stop myself from trying to stomp out every new blaze. If I don´t, though, the new components that we hope will make the system work get pushed out further and further.”

As Twitter is often a steady stream to periodically dip in to, it´s always noticeable when it briefly runs dry.

Hopefully it won´t ever go down long enough to leave us all parched and withered for entertainment.