Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

When Does Twitter’s Free Pass on Poor Performance Expire?

We in the tech community can be very forgiving of the growing pains of a startup.  Especially those of us who have been there or are there now.  That’s exactly what has happened with Twitter ever since it exploded onto the scene at South by Southwest in March.  Despite my early reservations about the service, I came to adopt it and I find it valuable.  I know others do as well.

But the performance has been lagging the entire time.  Web site outages are routine.  Message deliver is delayed.  Pictures of cats fixing servers are amusing the first few times — OK, they are still amusing — but eventually the problems need to be solved. 

None of us who use the service pay any cash for it, but we do invest our time and energy into making it a success.  Like many Web 2.0 companies, Twitter is nothing without its users. 

System slowness made sense during SxSW and in its immediate aftermath.  What startup can truly be prepared for that sort of sudden explosion in usage?  Most established companies would (and do) have trouble with rapid traffic growth.

But the problems don’t seem to be getting better.  In fact, they may be getting worse.  Neville Hobson reports today on something I have noticed myself over the past week — tweets submitted to the system are simply disappearing into the ether, never to be seen again.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.

So when does Twitter have to solve these problems before users abandon the service?  How much longer will they continue to get a free pass?  We all love innovation, but Twitter may be at risk of finding out the limits of user patience. 

This is a question all startups must ask themselves.

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  1. In small defense of Twitter, every Ruby developer on Earth bragged about how scalable Ruby on Rails was. Unfortunately these claims were baseless and Twitter (and Ruby) may die as a result.
    I think that Twitter will continue to have a free pass until there is a reasonable competitor. There are plenty of examples of bad software that were successful for shear lack of competition.
    AOL was a nightmare, but it was the top dog until a better solution presented itself. In the same vein, I don’t know a single developer/IT guy/manager/user that enjoys PeopleSoft, but it’s doing things that other systems just can’t do, so it keeps going.

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