Twitter outage blamed on 'cascading bug'

11:22 AM, Jun 22, 2012   |    comments
Thursday's Twitter crash was so bad that the famed 'Fail Whale' did not show for users; the site simply timed out. (Twitter)
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(USA TODAY) -- When social-media giant Twitter goes offline, cyberspace is left with a void of tweet nothings.

Twitter had its largest outage of the year Thursday, when it went out just before noon. The service was down in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

In the U.S., Twitter came back up about 70 minutes later only to suffer at least two subsequent outages, according to online monitoring firm Pingdom, based in Stockholm.

"Twitter's website has had more downtime today than it had the entire year to date before today," Pingdom analyst Peter Alguacil said Thursday.

The microblogging service blames the problem on a "cascading bug" that had "a significant impact on all users, worldwide," said Mazen Rawashdeh, vice president of engineering, on the company's blog. "It's imperative that we remain available around the world, and (Thursday) we stumbled."

The bug was an internal one, not caused by an external hack, said Rawashdeh, who noted that the site has been available more than 99.96 percent of the time over the last six months. Still, "what might have been a small flaw can cause a big outage," says McAfee representative Phyllis Schneck.

More than 140 million active Twitter users bombard the site with 340 million tweets a day via the Web, smartphones, tablets and computers. Unable to send their 140-characters-or-less missives, many were left wringing their hands.

"So where will I get my snarky, smug or mildly humorous thoughts for the day?" mused Kyle Walker in Santa Monica, Calif.

Many went to Facebook for a social media fix. To help friends persevere, website editor Tanya Valdez advised, "Don't panic. You will live ... You can get through this."

As Twitter came back up, #WhenTwitterWentDown became a top 10 trending topic on the site.

Others joked about the addictive hold the site has on their lives. "Twitter went down, I looked up & was like, who are these people in my house? Turns out I have a wife & a daughter," tweeted Ryan McGee, a writer for ESPN the Magazine.

Outages are not unusual for Twitter. "Usually, it's an overcapacity issue, but occasionally it's some other technical problem," says Shelly Palmer, author of Overcoming the Digital Divide.

"When it fails," Palmer says, "it shuts off thousands of dedicated, live news feeds to literally millions of people."

(Mike Snider, USA Today)

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