Twitter is experiencing performance problems this afternoon, most likely due to high traffic as users track dramatic developments in the nuclear emergency in Fukushima, Japan. The Twitter.com web interface seemed to be experiencing the most serious availability problems, but the company said that application trafic using Twitter's API was also affected.
"You may experience some problems loading twitter.com and with Twitter clients," Twitter said on its status blog. "We are aware of the problem and are taking action."
Twitter has been a leading news source for its global users seeking information about the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the subsequent crisis at a nuclear plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power in Fukushima. This afternoon U.S. officials offered a bleak assessment of the situation at Fukushima, and several nations began urging their citizens visiting Japan to consider leaving.
Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said this afternoon that the commission believed that all the water in the spent fuel pool at the No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station had boiled dry, leaving fuel rods stored there exposed and bleeding radiation. As a result, he said, “We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.”
Traffic monitoring by content delivery network Akamai showed a surge in global traffic to news sites this afternoon, with page views per minute for the Akamai news index reaching 4.2 million per minute, roughly the equivalent of traffic on election night in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president.
The performance problems came a day after Twitter began offering users the option of using a secure web connection for all of their sessions on Twitter.com. The use of connections over SSL (https) provides greater security but also affects performance, requiring additional processing to perform a secure "handshake" between server and client.