Twitter has thrown down the gauntlet – to itself – in a bid to regain the confidence of its frustrated users. The popular microblogging service has taken a beating for months for its continuing downtime, which has undermined much of its buzz and momentum. With Apple expected to announce a new iPhone today at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Twitter has taken the unusual and risky move of outlining steps it is taking to keep its service online during the event so that Twitter users can discuss the announcements. Twitter crashed hard during Steve Jobs’ MacWorld keynote in January. Twitter’s Biz Stone writes that Twitter has beefed up its systems for the Apple WWDC:
During the event, we are expecting approximately ten times our normal daily traffic so we’ve made some plans to accommodate this dramatic surge. We’ve moved much of the load off our database by utilizing more memcache, employing more read-slave servers, and by fixing some bugs for improved efficiency. This work is in intended to help handle the load and keep Twitter up and running while Steve Jobs talks about all the new products and services Apple has planned.
By touting its efforts to remain online, Twitter has raised the stakes and made today’s Apple event a do-or-die test of its reliability. If Twitter fails after having taken the extra steps outlined today, its users will conclude that the company’s best efforts are not good enough to tame its infrastructure challenges.
Twitter is hedging its bets, as indicated by the steps it is prepared to take in the event its servers begin to labor. “Should it become necessary to shed incoming load quickly, we can turn off features such as stats, pagination, and several others to preserve the reliability and timeliness of your Twitter timeline,” writes Stone. Thay also hint at a new service wrinkle to help keep conversations working, which Dave Winer says may involve Summize. UPDATE: Mike Arrington at TechCrunch has the details on the Twitter-Summize partnership, which gives users another way to monitor Apple-related Twitter activity without straining Twitter’s infrastructure. But Mike notes: “If Twitter goes down, though, there’s nothing Summize will be able to do to help.”
The move follows a series of steps by Twitter to restore its credibility with its users, who are weary of downtime. Twitter first said it wasn’t entirely sure about the origin of its reliability problems, and then suggested its heaviest users were challenging its database (which riled uberTwitterer Robert Scoble). Lately the company has been answering user questions about its infrastructure.
But the big question remains: Can Twitter shed its reputation for instability and deliver today when the traffic is up and the chips are down?