Twitter Outage Even Grounds 'Fail Whale'

A system-wide outage of Twitter on Thursday got people's blood boiling, but raises another round of questions about the Web 2.0's effectiveness in the enterprise.

Michael Singer, Contributor

September 25, 2008

3 Min Read

A system-wide outage of Twitter on Thursday got people's blood boiling, but raises another round of questions about the Web 2.0's effectiveness in the enterprise.Around 3 p.m. Eastern, the service came to a quick halt, preventing microblogging anywhere on the site. A pop-up warning flashed "Authentication Required" and asked for credentials

"A username and password are being requested by The site says: 'Production-Staging Access - Employees Only,'" read the prompt.

Twitter is down

All attempts I made of inserting my account name and password were met by a harsh 404-type message that blamed me for not having the right credentials or my browser for not understanding how to supply the credentials required. No kindly "Fail Whale" to let users know that something is amiss and to please stand by.

At first, I thought it was Google Chrome to blame, which was the browser I was using at the time. But a quick check of two of my favorite Twitter-diagnostic sites -- Is Twitter Down? and Twitter's own Down For Everyone Or Just Me? -- both showed that there was no Twitter issue. Everything is fine and you should all just move along.

But the service wasn't working. I contacted MitchWagner, an executive editor with InformationWeek and a heavy Twitter user, who said he also noticed the outage and that his TweetDeck hadn't gotten an update for about 90 minutes. Although he did say that Twitterific on his iPhone seemed to work fine.

Other Twitter users were not as patient. Most were frustrated enough to point out that they couldn't even use Twitter to complain about... Twitter.

Finally, Twitter engineer John Adams (netik) blamed the 3-hour problem on an authorization issue and asked subscribers to be a bit more patient, I would say "stroke out" (a favorite phrase of a former manager of mine).

The point here is that Twitter is an example of how Web 2.0 companies can shoot themselves in the foot. The microblogging industry is fast becoming a communications tool for enterprise and is rife with people who have little patience for hiccups.

As Rob Salkowitz, author of "Generation Blend: Managing Across the Technology Age Gap," said in an InternetEvolution blog post: The Tweeting of GenX, with Twitter and other microblog services, "conversations with CIOs and corporate technology folks have changed."

If you want to hear more about how Web 2.0 companies like Twitter are facing global competition, regulatory pressures, workforce transformations, and increased greater customer expectations, check out InformationWeek's independent analysis on the topic. Download the report here (registration required).

Wheew... got that off my chest.

Now, in addition to Mitch, InformationWeek has several Twitter feeds for the magazine and individual editors:

informationweek All InformationWeek articles and blog headlines, with links to the full text, updated automatically and continuously.

iwpicks Only the best InformationWeek articles and blogs, with links to the full text, updated manually.

awolfe58 Alexander Wolfe, Editor in Chief, InformationWeek online.

tecscoop Security blogger George Hulme.

phonescooper Mobile blogger Eric Zeman.

And of course you can follow my Twitter at MichaelSinger.

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