Twitter DoS: The Ultimate Fail Whale?


One of the most popular and fastest growing social media sites is Twitter, the 140-character micro-blogging site that has grown exponentially this year, thanks to being “discovered” by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and by businesses and individuals drawn to its prowess. You either love or you hate Twitter and probably haven’t quite figured it out completely. Then again, Twitter’s management seems to be unsure what direction the website is going, not quite certain how to monetize it for financial gain.

Twitter Fail WhaleThis morning Twitter suddenly stopped working with millions of users kicked off of the site which had shut down. Within the first half hour of the outage, word began to surface on TechCrunch and other technology news sites that Twitter was experiencing a “Denial of Service” or DoS attack. A DoS attack is an attempt to make a computer resource unavailable to its intended users in a bid to shut the site down. Everyone from cyberterrorists to a pimply fifteen year old wonk working in his parent’s basement is usually mentioned as the attacker, but in most cases the source of the attack is never revealed.

While Twitter was down, many users flocked to other sites only to discover that they were unusually slow or suffering a similar fate. Facebook, with more than 250 million users was reported to be experiencing trouble, although when I checked in on it three separate times in a span of two hours late this morning, the website was working fine. Not so with Twitter.

Founded in 2006, Twitter began to run into problems in 2007 as the site wasn’t able to keep up with its rocketing growth. By May 2008, new architectural changes were implemented which seemed to make the site run better. Yet, from time to time the infamous Twitter “fail whale” notice will appear signaling that the site is over capacity. Usually, within the moment of a browser refresh Twitter is restored, but not today as even the fail whale has taken the day off.

Likely Twitter will be fully restored later today and fully operational this evening. Whether a DoS attack was solely to blame or Twitter overload is finally catching up remains to be seen. For Twitter addicts with too much time on their hands, the temporary failure of a popular social media site can be a bit more than what they can handle. Luckily, they’ll be able to tweet their anxiety away once the site is up and running again.

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