When Twitter Becomes Too Big To Fail (Even For A Few Hours)

Yesterday, Twitter had all sorts of problems.

Many users had frozen timelines that hadn’t updated for hours, and others weren’t able to log into the service at all.

A lot of people were, perhaps understandably, furious. It’s often only when something is taken away from us, or presented in a way that is less than ideal or compromised, that we begin to realise the true value.

I reported on the issue, and when it looked like it wasn’t going to be resolved anytime soon, I did what I felt was the smartest thing in the situation – I closed down my computer, and I went out for the day.

If necessary, I could still monitor events on my iPhone. But really, it was nice to have a break. I’m on Twitter a lot, but it isn’t my life. My work, family and friends all come first, although my television time has definitely taken a beating.

But it is a huge part of my life, and that holds true for a lot of other people, too, including brands, journalists, small business owners, and everybody else who uses the resource to send and receive news, information and ideas. Twitter needs to sort out these downtime problems, because as the platform continues to expand and becomes an even bigger part of all of our lives, these blackout periods are increasingly becoming unacceptable.

The company hasn’t quite reached the too big to fail stage, at least not yet, but the concept has. After two years, Twitter isn’t something I do anymore. It just is. I don’t think, “I should see what’s happening on Twitter!” and then make myself go there. It’s all very natural and organic. I realise it isn’t that way for everybody, or even most people, but, month by month, it’s getting there. Every day, there’s more of us, and less of them.

As Dave Winer suggests, Twitter needs to start thinking about the big picture and sharing the server workload, even if it’s with competitors. If it’s an issue, now, with an estimated hundred million users, just how big a problem, and how much of an impact is downtime going to make on our lives when a billion people are left blankly staring at the error page?

(And the best part? When it finally comes back, half of all the new tweets are users complaining that the service was down. I’m just grateful there was something on TV.)