While the elections were going on in the U.S., Twitter was silently making a change that almost no one seems to have noticed. They called it “the death of the Fail Whale,” referring to the graphic of a white whale being lifted out of the water by Twitter-icon birds – the very symbol of “failure” and the graphical backbone for the “#FAIL” meme.
Twitter creative director Doug Bowman tweeted “RIP Fail Whale” on November 6, citing the end of the days of Twitter failures, blackouts, and failures.
What made this change? On election day, arguably one of the predictably busiest days on the Twitter network, the company’s services managed to stay online and doing fine during a 300,000 tweet-per-minute (tpm) onslaught over the election night hubbub.
It managed to stay alive and healthy thanks to the restructuring of its servers and new investment in more distributed technologies to keep the workload spread and sustainable. Election night was seen as their big test, after two headline-grabbing failures earlier this year.
The Fail Whale
As a side note, the Twitter Fail Whale is an icon actually embraced by the company itself, which used the graphic created by Yiying Lu as it’s “site down” message for a long time. Twitter did this in a sort of “embrace it or die fighting it” PR move that, while it didn’t smooth things with frustrated users, at least added a little humor to the rocky shores as Twitter grew through its trials. Common shouts of “Thar she blows!” from Twitter users when the Fail Whale appeared were often sent on other (competing) social networks.
The trouble is, that icon of instability in the Twitter platform was killing the company’s income potential with advertisers, investors, and acceptance on the whole. So it had to go. Just dumping the graphic wouldn’t work, though. The actual problems had to be tackled.
Thats’ what Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has been attempting to do for months now. After a rocky road this summer, the company may have finally tackled it.
Election night, deciding more than just a President
While the world looked at the Obama vs. Romney campaigns as the most important thing going on November 6, Twitter saw it as the true test of all their efforts to make their company a mature player in the social media world. Whichever candidate won, Twitter had to come out on top.
At the peak of the announcements by news media as to the chosen winner in the American race, a 327,452 tpm rate was happening as people around the world shouted or groaned at the political outcome of the elections.
Twitter held firm, though. And that outcome, though quiet, signaled to some of us who were watching that Twitter might actually (finally) be a mature platform, ready for the big leagues.