Social media outages today

As I take a moment or two out of my day, Twitter is currently unavailable and has been so for over an hour. News websites, listed through Google’s service, are reporting that the outages are affecting many other social websites; my own experience tells me that Facebook is suffering too. According to a blog post at Twitter’s status reporting blog, posted around twenty minutes ago, the outage is due to what they’re calling a “denial of service attack“: in non-technical terms, this means that an external service, user or hacker is attempting to disrupt service by swamping the websites with requests for information.

Many of the social media sites which we all know and love (or hate) are closely interconnected on a technical level: Facebook “applications” automatically request updates from Twitter, as do other services such as FriendFeed. Whereas the sheer technical power of such sites ensure a high level of “up time” (availability), there is always the possibility that the close ties between systems will break under extreme circumstances. From the internet to financial systems and other online systems, the possibility of a “domino effect” is always in the back of a programmer’s mind. Preventing such a domino effect should always be high on the list of programmers’ responsibilities and priorities. Whether the related system weaknesses and outages today are connected through technical oversight or separate attacks will be seen soon, when the cause and source of the attacks becomes public.

>This post was originally written for the Burson-Marsteller Crossmedia blog.