in 2009: Success or Failure?

Josh Chandler · February 14, 2009 · Short URL:

2 months into the new year, with fresh investment and what does have to show for it?, the popular microblogging service had a brief outage yesterday that lasted for a total of 30 mins, and was clarified in a Twitter Status Update at as a "unplanned maintenance on a database machine", now if I were to tell you new Twitterers that this is just a typical Twitter problem would you believe me? I mean the majority of new users stemming from recent press and television exposure probably wouldn't know what to make of this outage, I want to make it clear to all of you that is a failing service only held up but dedicated Twitter users who trust the Twitter team to really sort things out.

The Twitter team recently valued themselves at $250 million, one thing is for sure they having to start showing all of us exactly why that is the case. They raised $35 million in fresh capital from Institutional Venture Partners (IVP) and Benchmark Capital and aren't exactly showing much in return. The thing that is most interesting to look at from the perspective of the investors is the portfolio's they already hold, IVP has companies such as Netflix and Seagate, and Benchmark Capital have companies such as and, why did they think would help to maintain that pedigree they already hold with their current investments!

The question really lies on whether Twitter can even scale the site according to the influx in visitors, during 2007 in the inaugural launch year of  Twitter, the company had over 5 days of downtime in the entire year according to, now when a community is relying on this site for "real time conversations" 5 days is a long time!  And in 2008, within the first 4 months of the year Twitter had already had 37 hrs and 16 mins of downtime, the highest of any social network!

Is there any chance that during 2009 Twitter put more effort into its flawed system which has been identified in the past as being poorly coded, has the internet given Twitter too long to make amends and should we really accept the downtime and "unplanned maintenance" to be acceptable, as much as the likes of Robert Scoble of Fast Company TV and Steve Gilmor of Techcrunch IT are trying to hold Twitter more accountable, but I just don't know if Twitter are listening!

To be honest with you, I just don't know I really care about that much anymore, this new age of community building viamicroblogging is proving extremely helpful and effective for many brands and web celebrities, but it appears if they cannot formulate a system that works and seemingly uninterested  by numerous press writeups about them, then we shouldn't give them the attention!


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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.