Lately Twitter’s database crashed. They occasionally have to turn off features for technical reasons. Sometimes they’re down and they don’t even know why (having been a sys admin I feel their pain). It seems they’ve picked a service with a a hard technical problem: scaling a web messaging system. And it’s reached the point of parody.
Considering we don’t actually need Twitter and could easily go back to life without it, the devotion of Twitterers is amazing. But I realize this is nothing new for Evan Williams, the founder. In the early days of Blogger there were also massive technical problems. As an early Blogger I remember them devoting weekends to keeping the service up as I sent in my donation to keep them going.
This approach feels like a key variation on the beta launch approach: if the app is addictive enough, consumers will hang on and tolerate downtime. So launching a good idea even earlier than the usual beta may pay off despite technical pain later on (e.g. Blogger survived nicely). For many product development and IT managers, launching betas is radical enough, launching unscalable betas will be a tough lesson to absorb.
p.s. check out their nifty over capacity page…