How Twitter Conquered the President’s Fail Whale

The social-media site says it’s ready for the State of the Union’s traffic surge.

Twitter probably won't be crashing during the State of the Union this year.
National Journal
Alex Brown and Laura Ryan
Jan. 21, 2014, 1 a.m.

Twit­ter’s “fail whale” has gone to a wa­tery grave, but the so­cial-me­dia site is prom­ising it won’t need the whale — or any re­place­ment for it — dur­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s State of the Uni­on ad­dress later this month.

In­ev­it­ably, at some point dur­ing the ad­dress, one buzz-gen­er­at­ing re­mark will lead to a spike in tweet­ing, and Wash­ing­ton’s chat­ter­ing class will be ablaze with 140-char­ac­ter missives. In the past, this might have brought out the dreaded “fail whale,” a mar­ine mam­mal ex­plain­ing that something was askew and your tweet would have to wait. This time around, that won’t hap­pen, for two reas­ons:

First, Twit­ter ban­ished that whale this sum­mer. And second, the site’s keep­ers say they can handle whatever traffic SOTU watch­ers have to throw at it.

A Time art­icle last year noted Twit­ter’s ef­forts to cut its traffic-caused out­ages, shift­ing its back-end pro­gram­ming pro­cess and sep­ar­at­ing vari­ous func­tions. Since mid-2010, the site has rarely dropped be­low 99 per­cent up­time, with no out­ages at all in most months of 2013.

That’s a far cry from 2008, when mes­sage out­ages and “fail whales” were far more com­mon­place — and plagued the on­line re­ac­tion to then-Pres­id­ent George W. Bush’s fi­nal State of the Uni­on ad­dress.

But for all the talk of pres­id­ent’s an­nu­al ad­dress be­ing “Con­gress’s Prom,” it’s worth not­ing that it’s more whim­per than bang out­side the Belt­way: Last year’s speech saw a massive jump in Twit­ter traffic from 2012 levels — tweets nearly doubled from 767,000 to 1.36 mil­lion. At its very peak, Obama’s ad­dress garnered 24,000 tweets per minute, Twit­ter said. But that’s a pit­tance when com­pared with en­ter­tain­ment and sports events. The Su­per Bowl brought in 231,000 tweets per minute dur­ing the half-hour power black­out in the second half. And even the third most-viewed TV pro­gram in his­tory couldn’t touch the scan­dal­ous VMA per­form­ance of Mi­ley Cyr­us. That topped out at 306,100 tweets per minute.

Still not im­pressed? Those U.S. Twit­ter spikes paled in com­par­is­on to the Ja­pan­ese re­run of a 1980s anime movie in Au­gust — Castle in the Sky drew an in­sane 143,199 tweets in one second.

The com­mon thread to all those high-traffic 2013 events? Zero out­ages.

What We're Following See More »
GOOGLE SEARCHES SPIKE
Libertarians Getting a Second Look?
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
VEEPSTAKES
Trump Floats Gingrich, Kasich as Running Mates
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Newt Gringrich is actively positioning himself as a possible VP nominee for Donald Trump, according to National Review. After a New York Times piece mentioned him as a possible running mate, he said, "It is an honor to be mentioned. We need a new Contract with America to outline a 100-day plan to take back Washington from the lobbyists, bureaucrats, unions, and leftists. After helping in 1980 with Reagan and 1995 as speaker I know we have to move boldly and decisively before the election results wear off and the establishment starts fighting us. That is my focus." Meanwhile, Trump told CNN he'd be "interested in vetting" John Kasich as well.

NO MORE CUTS
House Dems Push on Puerto Rico, Citing Zika
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"House Democrats are stepping up pressure on Republicans to advance legislation addressing Puerto Rico’s worsening debt crisis by issuing a report arguing that austerity cuts can’t be sustained and have made the island more vulnerable to the mosquito-borne Zika virus." Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee released a report yesterday that argued "further sharp reductions in government spending can’t be a part of a legislative solution"—especially with a rainy season boosting the mosquito population and stressing an island health system already struggling to deal with the Zika virus.

Source:
USING LOCAL CELLS
Clapper: ISIS Can Stage Attacks in U.S.
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"ISIS has the capability to stage a Paris-style attack in the U.S. using local cells to strike in multiple locations and inflict dozens of casualties, according to the Obama administration's top U.S. intelligence official." Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told CNN's Peter Bergen that such a scenario is "something we worry about a lot in the United States, that they could conjure up a raid like they did in Paris or Brussels."

Source:
WILL ANNOUNCE PICK BEFORE CONVENTION
Trump to Name VP Search Committee
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Donald J. Trump said on Wednesday that he expected to reveal his vice presidential pick sometime in July—before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland—but added that he would soon announce a committee to handle the selection process, which would include Dr. Ben Carson." He said he's inclined to name a traditional political figure, unlike himself.

Source:
×