Twitter takes a break, we're awake, and wondering...
Saturday, December 15, 2007 by Dave Winer.
There'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.