A quick note about my Twitter experience this morning:
I went to post a remark about this article from yesterday’s New York Times on the computer science gender gap (particularly how this graph shows how the tech boom utterly failed to inspire young women) and found that Twitter was down:
Actually, that’s a lie; at first, I didn’t notice anything, because this is what I see when I use Twitter:
This is a screenshot of Birdfeeder, a prototype implementation of a distributed and secure microblogging protocol called FETHR, which operates independently of (but connects to) Twitter. I posted my comment to a personal instance of Birdfeeder, which happily accepted it, digitally signed it, entangled it with other messages in my timeline, and forwarded it on to my FETHR subscribers—one of which is a Twitter gateway, which takes care of forwarding my messages on to my Twitterstream. It’s also responsible for sending me messages from people I follow, so (as you can see from the screenshot) I never have to leave my Birdfeeder interface—and therefore can occasionally miss minor Twitter glitches. (Or, as in this case, major hour-long outages. Nothing yet on the status blog, either, so it must really be all-hands-on-deck over at Twitter HQ. Update: Over an hour in, there’s a small note on the status blog.)
When Twitter eventually comes back up, the gateway will busy itself with the task of forwarding along my queued messages and fetching news from my Twitter subscriptions. I can continue to tweet in the meantime and even page back through my entire history and the archived messages of my friends. This is the fundamental benefit of decentralized micropublishing: independent providers may experience local failures without bringing the whole damn thing to a screeching halt.
So, in something of a twist on the usual, Twitter is down for everyone—but not me.
This is fun and exciting new research (currently under submission) and I hope to push out a technical report version soon so that others may begin to evaluate and improve the system design. Hit me at dsandler@ (or @dsandler, once Twitter wakes up again) if you can’t wait and would like to know more.