Twitter’s having a whale of a time

Screenshot of Twitter: Twitter is currently down for database replication catchup

As I write this, Twitter is down for a “database replication catchup”. Sounds technical. As I hinted before, and as Kate Carruthers agrees, it’s make or break time for this most cool of messaging services.

It’s ironic that Twitter’s ability to connect us humans into an almost-instantaneous global network was a core theme of Mark Pesce’s keynote presentation at Microsoft’s ReMIX 08 last week. The very week he extols Twitter’s strengths, it collapses. And they don’t know why.

At least Twitter has responded to community calls for more transparency.

In Twittering About Architecture, Alex Payne admits they built it wrong from the beginning.

Twitter is, fundamentally, a messaging system. Twitter was not architected as a messaging system, however. For expediency’s sake, Twitter was built with technologies and practices that are more appropriate to a content management system. Over the last year and a half we’ve tried to make our system behave like a messaging system as much as possible, but that’s introduced a great deal of complexity and unpredictability.

I don’t need to repeat my call for less haste in web development — and in the world generally — do I?

Twitter has just received another $15M investment. Take the time to get it right, guys. But quickly.

3 Replies to “Twitter’s having a whale of a time”

  1. Yeah I’m watching twitter closely also.

    But got to thinking… Twitter is a relatively new form of service, and they have got better in their downtime communications…. but when was the last time Telstra was able to send my New Years messages in a timely fashion?

    Ok so we expect SMSing to be slow on New Years eve. Or we have come to expect it. But what if there was some form of emergency, where lots of people needed to send a quick message to locate their friends and family. Now there is a service that a) I pay for and b) don’t want any downtime 🙂

  2. @jason: That’s a really interesting point. Twitter intends to become a “utility”, i.e. a standard part of the global infrastructure. Just like, oh, CityRail and their appalling reliability figures, or Telstra BigPond back when they were first rolling out ADSL and had major failures. Despite these drawbacks, both remain “infrastructure”, and people continue to use them. And you’re right about SMS.

    Twitter is at the bleeding edge of new technology. We should cut them some slack. Or at least hold them to standards no stricter than the infrastructure we already have.

  3. I’m with you on cutting them some slack. It’s definitely a whole new way to communicate — the most effortless way to communicate meaningfully I’ve actually run into.

    Of course, I have become somehow emotionally attached to the fail whale!

    Best 500 Error page ever, no?

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