Twitter wants to be part of the basic infastructure of the internet, part of the system — that is, so fundamental that you can’t imagine an internet without it. Like search. (Imagine the internet with no Google or Yahoo or Bing. Hard, right?) And I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to suppose that it is on its way to being vital on that level to the way we internet. (Yes I just used internet as a verb.) Which is totally cool. But the system isn’t allowed to break.
Twitter’s had two major — well, let’s say medium — problems in the last week. First, it had to temporarily shut down TweetDeck — a service that is kind of like Twitter in its freebase form for power users — after “a bug that caused a very small number of TweetDeck users to have access to other TweetDeck users’ accounts.” Second, over the weekend, the “Connect” tab wouldn’t update for a ton of people using the official iOS and Android app. Also, apparently I’ve been on Twitter and people have been following me since 1969. (Update: Oh and I forgot about the unfollow bug! Three strikes.)
The official fix for the Connect bug is to log out and log back in again. Simple. Annoying, but simple. However, you can’t simply log out of the iOS app. Twitter is part of iOS. It’s integrated. You have to delete the account (or accounts) off of your phone, and then re-add them. What makes a relatively minor bug so problematic, both semantically and functionally, is precisely the fact that Twitter is part of the system.
Twitter used to go down, like, a lot. So much so that it was more of a joke than actual news when it happened. But by 2010, even a relatively “routine” Twitter crash merited coverage on CNN and serious consternation on TechCrunch. It’s now reached a peak of 25,000 tweets per second. When something happens in the world, we now expect it to be on Twitter faster than any other medium, as close to instant as is possibly possible. TWitter was ahead of the mainstream press by 27 minutes on Whitney Houston’s death. Twitter itself even made a video proclaming it’s “faster than an earthquake”.
So congrats, Twitter, you’re part of the plumbing now. You’re essential. But that means you can’t not be faster than earthquakes, not tell us the next celebrity died before the rest of the media, not be there when people need you. You’re not allowed to break anymore.