As I write this, Amazon.com, like Twitter, is offline. Amazon's outage is the big news Friday morning. But what of Twitter?
I used to love Twitter. But the site's pogo status--it's up! it's down! it's up again!--is driving me away. I've removed the Twitter sidebar from the Webware home page, and I've stopped religiously updating it. Because I figure its users, and my followers, are learning to not trust it, to not bother visiting the site since it's likely to be down when they visit. Chances are fewer people are reading my Twitter posts now than a month ago.
I believe Twitter is bleeding users. Every time Twitter users go to Twitter.com or to their Twitter app and they see the "Fail Whale," an error message, or just a non-responsive site, they're that much less likely to come back the next time. Instead, they're going to FriendFeed, Jaiku, Pownce, or even the whacked-out Plurk.
Until the Twitter team can get the service working again for good, here's what they should strongly consider: Close the site. Take it offline. Put plywood over the doors and windows, as it were, with a big "We're remodeling!" sign on the front. Ask users if they want to be e-mailed when the site reopens for business and don't send that e-mail until the thing is fixed. Really fixed. Then have a grand reopening party.
It's not like doing this would cost Twitter revenue. It doesn't have any. But if Twitter is going to be online, it needs to be reliable. Twitter is not just a toy. It's a communications platform that people were just beginning to rely on before it overloaded and got flakey. Now, no one can rely on it and we're learning that at any given moment, there's a very good chance that Twitter will be offline. The more people who learn that, the fewer people will visit, and the more people will walk across the street to competing services. Remember how Friendster lost its momentum?
If Twitter can't deliver a reliable experience, I think its best bet is to close until it can. That way, we can all come back to the site at the same time, all together, instead of each of us showing up one by one and finding it deserted.
Related: Disqus' Downtime Reminds Us of Woes for Data In the Cloud, by Louis Gray.