When It Comes to Social Networks, Uptime Doesn't Matter

pingdom-small Updated: Users of social networks choose where to spend their time based on factors entirely outside of those such as uptime and reliability, according to report issued Tuesday (PDF link) by Pingdom, a service that tracks web site uptime and optimization for companies. Not that such things aren’t important — after all, a social network isn’t going to be of much use if people can’t log in or use the features. But the Pingdom report shows that when it comes right down to it, those things don’t matter nearly as much as one might think.

Take a look at the chart below, which sorts social networks according to their total downtime in 2008.


Notice who’s up there near the top? A bunch of networks you likely never use (or at least not very much), including Xanga.com and Classmates.com, as well as Imeem and MySpace (although Pingdom admits that its data for Imeem was incomplete). And right down there at the bottom in terms of reliability is…yes, you guessed it: Twitter. The social network that is currently growing like a weed on steroids — the one that everyone is talking about — had the worst uptime record by a landslide: Its downtime in 2008 stands at more than 84 per cent hours, or almost twice its nearest competitor, LinkedIn.

Here’s another eye-opener. This chart shows Twitter’s downtime per quarter:


Update: That’s right — nearly 50 percent of Twitter’s downtime took place in the second quarter of last year. Twitter was down almost 50 per cent of the time. That is a pathetic and dismal record by almost any measure. There are apps and services that are still in the private alpha stage with uptime records that would put Twitter to shame. But what is the social network that everyone wants to use? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not Xanga (no offense to you Xanga-ites). And one of the big reasons for Twitter’s downtime, of course, was the simple fact that it was trying to scale quickly enough to keep up with its growth (that, and it arguably had the wrong kind of infrastructure to start with — but that’s a different story).

When I wrote about Twitter and its downtime last year, I got a fascinating comment from someone who ran a small technology startup — not a Twitter knockoff, but similar in many ways. They spent a lot of time and money building a great infrastructure, robust and scalable, with all kinds of features. And what did it get them? A great service, with very few users. This person said that he would much rather have had Twitter’s problems: lots of downtime and scalability issues, but also lots of devoted users. Uptime isn’t much good if there isn’t anyone around who cares whether you are up or not.