Twitter experienced some downtime yesterday. In response, Twitter said that the outage was due to an “inadvertent chance” to the internal systems.
For any website owner, “downtime” is certainly a dreaded word. What that specifically means differs from admin to admin. For some, it sparks anxiety because there could be potential sales lost. For others, it means fewer eyeballs seeing not only their content, but ads as well (re: lost revenue). In a number of cases, it can mean simply a loss of overall reputation. Sometimes, it’s just a standard case of growing pains (which really is a great problem to have, really).
Regardless, almost no one likes seeing their own site experience downtime. Still, it does happen to plenty even with modern server technology. When a big player experiences downtime, it generally just gets more noticed. This is, in part, because when you are a bigger player, you have much more robust systems in place to minimize such instances. At any rate, Twitter certainly experienced downtime yesterday – and it had plenty of people talking. From Forbes:
What does interest me is when Twitter will be back up. According to Down Detector, Twitter is having issues across the planet, with significant problems on the east coast of the U.S., but other challenges across the country, in Europe, in Japan, and in Brazil, with minor challenges in other countries like Canada, India, Australia, and Turkey.
But it’s not just the timeline that is having issues. Twitter Notifications and Bookmarks are also down. Hashtags and trending topics are still nominally up, but the latest tweets they’re showing are as much as an hour old.
Some people had built theories to explain the downtime. Some were speculating that, maybe, Twitter was hacked. Meanwhile, Trump supporters do what they always do whenever something happens in the world: turn it political and try and make it sound like a massive conspiracy against them. From Global:
U.S. President Donald Trump blamed Thursday’s global Twitter outage on a deliberate attempt by the company to protect Joe Biden, citing an obviously fake news story written in the style of “The Onion.”
“Twitter Shuts Down Entire Network To Slow Spread of Negative Biden News,” read the headline on the Babylon Bee, a Christian satire site. The fake story claimed that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had smashed up his servers on Thursday to censor an unverified New York Post story about the Democratic nominee for president and his son, Hunter.
Twitter did limit the spread of the story on Thursday due to its policy around hacked materials. However, there is no evidence that the story had anything to do with the Twitter outage on Thursday afternoon.
“Wow, this has never been done in history,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, along with a link to the Babylon Bee story. “This includes his really bad interview last night. Why is Twitter doing this. Bringing more attention to Sleepy Joe & Big T.”
It’s unclear if Trump actually read the story, which starts with Dorsey and several weak-armed programmers struggling to smash all the computers at Twitter HQ, and ends with a bunch of robots attacking “all the cis white males” in sight. The article does not include anything about Biden’s town hall event on Thursday, as Trump mentioned in his tweet.
Obviously, the conspiracy theory holds no water. The accusations merely reflect that people around Trump seems to think that the world revolves around the impeached president.
Meanwhile, back in reality, news is surfacing about the outage itself. Twitter said that the outage was caused by an “inadvertent change” on their part. From Engadget:
Update (8:30 PM ET): According to Twitter Communications, the problem was caused by “an inadvertent change we made to our internal systems.” Everything should be back up and running soon, as many people report the service is working but they don’t have access to saved bookmarks on Twitter.
Update (10/16 12:20 AM ET): Twitter’s status page now lists the issue as resolved, and it appears that Bookmarks are working again as well. Engineering lead Michael Montano explained the issue as part of a planned migration that went awry.
In short, it was a mistake on their part. If anything, it appears that even Twitter isn’t immune to human error.
Twitter is, of course, far from the only large player in the Internet ecosystem to find itself in a situation like this. Back in July, Cloudflare experienced their own outage that knocked parts of the Internet offline. The company apologized and acknowledged that it was human error that caused the error.
This is probably one of the perks of being a smaller player in all of this. You screw up a server configuration or have an error in an installation, few people will notice and you learn from the mistake. When you are a big player, large portions of the tech media is reporting on it. Mistakes happen, but when you are a big player, everyone notices it.