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World Cup Pushes Twitter to the Limit

Twitter seems pretty simple on the surface—it’s just 140 character messages, right?—but behind the scenes operating the service for millions of people around the world in real time is a heck of a lot more complex…and record traffic from the World Cup has apparently pushed Twitter to the breaking point, as the service racks up hours of downtime and frustrates users with error messages and failures. According to Twitter, the company knows about the problems and is working hard to keep the service running…but users can expect more bumps in the road.

“We have long-term solutions that we are working towards, but in the meantime, we are making real-time adjustments so that we can grow our capacity and avoid outages during the World Cup,” wrote Twitter’s Sean Garrett in the company blog. “As we go through this process, we have uncovered unexpected deeper issues and have even caused inadvertent downtime as a result of our attempts to make changes.”

Twitter’s engineering blog points to capacity and configuration issues with the company’s internal network. Twitter says it has doubled the capacity of that internal network and has reconfigured systems to better handle the loads, but the company nonetheless warns that they will have to perform “short planned maintenance” on the site that will probably take Twitter offline…some more. Twitter says it will provide advance notice of those outages and won’t do the work during World Cup games.

Although Twitter’s service has never been what anyone could call 100 percent reliable, the company has made major strides in reliability in the last few years while sustaining enormous growth in its user base and the volume of material it handles. However, both users and application developers count on Twitter being up and operational, especially during breaking new and high-traffic events. If Twitter creates the perception that it’s service will go down whenever there’s major news or events, users may take their tweets elsewhere…and competitors might see an opportunity to end-run the service.

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