The case of the disappearing tweets

Ronny Kerr · October 8, 2010 · Short URL:

Twitter acknowledges missing tweet problem, encourages users to report their specific issues

Over the past couple days, some Twitter users have started noticing a dramatic evaporation of older tweets from their own streams.

While users who don’t update the site frequently may notice nothing out of the ordinary, active Twitter users (like Leo Laporte, pictured) should find it odd to see something like two really recent tweets followed immediately by tweets from two years ago, and nothing between.

missing tweets

Twitter has acknowledged the problem on the Status blog:

“We are hearing some reports of users missing Tweets in their timeline and profile. They aren’t lost. We’re in the process of restoring them all.”

The service has undergone some pretty major changes in the past few weeks, the one most visible being a new redesign that makes it easier to access extra content from the main user page. Under the hood, Twitter was also completely overhauling the site’s aged search engine to better handle the one billion daily search queries it gets.

Neither of these upgrades should be related to the case of the missing tweets, though.

Twitter has actually set up a help page specifically for this problem:

“Are you missing all your tweets from your Profile page? If so, do not worry, we are aware of the issue and are working with the engineers to resolve this. We apologize for the inconvenience caused.”

If you want to help Twitter recover tweets faster, head over to the Help Center. The support team is gathering information that users post in the comments, namely user info and approximate number of tweets the user thinks have gone missing.

Let’s hope they get this resolved soon.

image courtesy of Search Engine Land.

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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.

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