Are Tweets Crashing Web Sites?

We're seeing the first reports that a single 140-character message on Twitter - known as a "tweet" - has knocked a site offline.

First came the Slashdot Effect - the flood of traffic from a link on Slashdot that crashes a  smaller site's web server or exhausts its bandwidth. Subsequent variations have been known as the Digg Effect and the TechCrunch Effect

Today was the first time I saw a report that a single 140-character message on Twitter -known as a "tweet" - had knocked a site offline. Mashable's Pete Cashmore says his link to a story about using Twitter to find your next job had sent too much traffic and taken the site down (UPDATE: site owner Michael Litman confirms this). The site was indeed unresponsive when I tried to visit it, but is now back online.

This kind of traffic generation is likely limited to power users like Cashmore, who has more than 50,000 followers on Twitter. That total places him among the 20 most widely followed users, according to one estimate. Better watch out for links from Stephen Fry (102,000 followers), Kevin Rose (97,000) and Leo LaPorte (82,000)

UPDATE: Eric notes in our comments that the original tweet seems not have generated an enormous number of click-throughs. Pingdom points to the potential for "retweeting" - the practice of forwarding a tweeted link to your own list of followers - as a traffic multiplier. Cashmore is the most frequently retweeted Twitter user, according to ReTweetist (as noted at The Next Web).

There was a time when this chain reaction of activity in the wake of power users was seen as a drag on Twitter's performance, prompting a spat with Robert Scoble, the service's uber-Tweeter at the time, who felt he was being scapegoated for Twitter's infrastructure failings.  

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