Is the World Cup Bringing Down Twitter?

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Updated: Twitter’s performance has been shaky today, with many users complaining about fail whales and Twitter’s status page acknowledging “periodic high rates of errors.” Those issues are likely caused by countless soccer fans weighing in about the World Cup, which officially started a few hours ago in South Africa with its first match between the guest host country’s and Mexico’s teams.

CNN.com’s Twitter buzz counted more than 300,000 World Cup-related tweets during the first game, and some data we just received from Trendrr also shows a huge spike, with up to 150,000 tweets per hour during the game (note: the time line on the graph below is MST).

Mark Ghuneim from Wiredset, the agency behind Trendrr, told me a few days ago that he expects the World Cup to be record-breaking. “It will be the largest conversation in social media,” he said.

Twitter already had some availability issues earlier this week, leading to a complete outage of about 90 minutes on Wednesday and more fail whales popping up yesterday. We’ve reached out to the company to get a sense of how much of this can be attributed to World Cup traffic, but haven’t heard back. We’ll update this post once we do.

In the meantime, you can always go and enjoy some of the Twitter visualizations of the World Cup that have been popping up online. Especially beautiful is the one done by the Guardian, which allows users to replay past matches and see how different keywords and tags became popular as goals were scored and chances were missed.

Update: Twitter has published a blog post about their performance issues, detailing how the site has been struggling with increased traffic in combination with some infrastructure changes gone wrong. The post also warns that the World Cup might cause some more outages:

“As more people turn to Twitter to see what’s happening in the world (or in the World Cup), you may still see the whale when there are unprecedented spikes in traffic. For instance, during the World Cup tournament –and particularly during big, closely-watched matches (such as tomorrow’s match between England and the U.S.A.)– we anticipate a significant surge in activity on Twitter. While we are making every effort to prepare for that surge, the whale may surface.”

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