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Twitter takes a break, we're awake, and wondering...

Saturday, December 15, 2007 by Dave Winer.

A picture named offlinetwitter.gifThere's a big yellow bar on the Twitter home page today saying it will be down for maintenence betw 10AM and 10PM today. I haven't heard any grumbling about this, but it's worth a bit of a grumble. Permalink to this paragraph

What other basic form of communication goes down for 12 hours at a time? Permalink to this paragraph

What if the web went offline for 12 hours at a time? It's unthinkable, because the web is built on the Internet and is decentralized and redundant. A single router or server can go down for a few hours, days or forever, and the web keeps working.  Permalink to this paragraph

Same with the phone network. Imagine if all the cell phones and land lines went down for scheduled maintenence for 12 hours. Again, it's unthinkable. Permalink to this paragraph

Even when there's a good excuse like a big snowstorm in the east, when the airline system goes down for 12 hours, a lot of people are upset, and it never happens as a scheduled thing.  Permalink to this paragraph

If Gmail started having twelve-hour planned outages, as much as I like Gmail, I'd switch. I can't be without email for any extended period of time.  Permalink to this paragraph

Okay, let's give the guys at Twitter credit -- they stopped being flip about Twitter taking naps or showers. No one likes jokes when a line of communication is down. Now I'd like them to take another step. Permalink to this paragraph

Explain to us what these long outages are for. I can take a guess -- something about the database needs changing, and all the data in all the files must be processed to implement the change. Any updates made while such a process is running would be lost, so the server must be shut off. But this is just a guess.  Permalink to this paragraph

Another guess -- maybe they've hired a scaling expert who needs to make one final major adjustment before these outages are a thing of the past? No one would want to make such a promise, that's offering too much temptation to Dr Murphy, but that would be good news. Maybe Twitter is getting on to solid ground, finally. If so, I'd like to know. Permalink to this paragraph

Meanwhile it's fairly amazing that there isn't a viable Twitter clone out there yet, one that does exactly what Twitter does, and runs all its applications.  Permalink to this paragraph

I'd also like to see something much more decentralized, based on static files, available to any Twitter-like system. It doesn't seem that far out of reach. With all the scaling troubles Twitter has had it's surprising that there haven't yet been any entrepreneurs willing to enter the space to compete with Twitter.  Permalink to this paragraph

Users and developers are learning first-hand why centralized systems are so fragile. I'm sure they're doing a heroic job at Twitter, the best they can with what they have, but it's not good enough when the service takes a 12-hour break while many of the humans that depend on it are awake and working. Permalink to this paragraph

© Copyright 1994-2007 Dave Winer Mailto icon.

Last update: 12/15/2007; 7:00:15 PM Pacific. "It's even worse than it appears."

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