Social micro-blogging site Twitter went down again on Tuesday. The company said the outage lasted less than an hour, but this is the second crash in nine days.
On its status page on Tuesday, Twitter said that it "experienced unexpected complications that made Twitter unavailable for many users starting at 11:01 a.m." PDT. The downtime occurred during "a planned deploy in one of our core services," and the company said it rolled back "the change as soon as we identified the issue."
A controlled recovery was also undertaken to make sure the rest of the service was stable, and there was a full recovery by 11:47 a.m. PDT.
Twitter watchers have reported that APIs and streams to third-party apps were also affected. Twitter apologized for the inconvenience, and acknowledged that most users were experiencing performance issues via the Web or devices. Issues included loading timelines and the ability to post tweets.
Ironically, the Tuesday outage took place as Twitter co-founder Biz Stone was about to take the stage at the South by Southwest media festival in Austin. Twitter was a hit at the festival in 2007.
The previous outage also took place at an inopportune time -- during the Academy Awards on March 2. On that occasion, the company's servers were overwhelmed by retweets of a "selfie" taken by show host Ellen DeGeneres that included many celebrities. When it was taken, DeGeneres announced live on the show that she intended for it to become the most retweeted message ever.
It's not surprising that a celebrity-laden photo would get such huge retweets. Earlier this week, the service announced that an analysis it conducted of millions of tweets by users in a wide range of industries found that media helps.
In a blog post on Monday, the company said that "people don't engage equally with every tweet," but its data showed that "adding video, links and photos all result in an impressive boost in the number of retweets."
An outage for a free service might not be considered an urgency, except that many of its 250 million users have come to depend on being regularly fed snippets of information -- or broadcasting their snippets. As many observers have noted, Twitter is now more like a critical piece of the infrastructure, as if it were phone or cable service.
In addition to being a constant check-in destination, the service has clearly become a citizen broadcasting network. It can be targeted at an individual, a large number of people, or just to a user's followers. Additionally, as has been seen in times of crisis -- notably natural disasters or political events -- it can become the only outlet for the transmission of news.
Now that it's reshaped our notion of news, it might soon do the same for storytelling. The second Twitter Fiction Festival (#twitterfiction) opened Wednesday at an event in New York City, featuring fictional stories told in 140-character bites.