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," says Pingdom analyst Peter Alguacil said Thursday.
The microblogging service blames the problem on a "cascading bug," according to Twitter spokesman Robert Weeks.
Twitter would not elaborate, but "it probably means one thing led to another in a chain," says McAfee representative Phyllis Schneck. That suggests the outages were likely caused internally — rather than by an external attack. "What might have been a small flaw can cause a big outage," she says.
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 their social-media fix. To help her friends persevere, website editor Tanya Valdez advised, "Everyone, don't panic, but I think Twitter is down again. You will live. … You can get through this."
As Twitter came back up, #WhenTwitterWentDown became one of top 10 trending topics 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.
As users' reliance on Twitter has grown, outages become bigger problems. "When it fails, it shuts off thousands of dedicated, live news feeds to literally millions of people," he says.