A-Listers Killing Twitter With Tweets

By: WebProNews Staff - May 30, 2008

Popular people with long lists of followers on Twitter may be partly responsible for the micro-blogging site’s performance woes at times.

Twitter serves as a messaging service these days, above and beyond what its creators imagined their experiment in one-to-many SMS messaging would become. As fans of Twitter, but lately its up and down availability made it difficult to drop an update to those who follow us on the service.

Twitter developer Alex Payne talked about the issues in a post at the Twitter Technology blog. He answered several questions posed by users of the site about its development and related issues.

In one response, Payne noted how a certain group of users may be the people responsible for some of Twitter’s growing pains:

The events that hit our system the hardest are generally when “popular” users – that is, users with large numbers of followers and people they’re following – perform a number of actions in rapid succession. This usually results in a number of big queries that pile up in our database(s). Not running scripts to follow thousands of users at a time would be a help, but that’s behavior we have to limit on our side.

We’re painfully aware of every minute that we’re slow or unavailable.

Improving performance will mean a lot of ongoing development work, tracking down issues with various diagnostic tools and generally exploring how people use Twitter. Its utility and ease of use lifted Twitter from being just another cute project to a highly useful service, something we hope continues to improve.

WebProNews Staff

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  • http://babblingaboutnothing.com Matt

     I didn’t bother to read past the first sentence.  How about looking at the proliferation of "bots" and "spammers" that follow upwards of 20,000 people, pull in that data, parse it, and then spam it out as "tweets".  You will find that for every Scobleizer there are 20 or 30 bots that find 200-300 people per minute to follow. 

    I think that the whole idea of the USERS being the problems is asinine.  I think they should find a way to limit bots and their drag on performance.  And i’ve tweeted about it before .. Is this artificially created to show our new (or existing) dependence on Twitter, and garner a revenue stream?  If we find we "need" it … will they get us to pay for it?  Likely not, we’ll move on to the next thing.  

  • http://connectedwell.com Robert Merrill

    That makes only a little sense.  Who cares how much a user is following others… it is when a user has many followERS that the problem exacerbates:

    1. Popular user sends a message
    2. Message must be distributed to:
    • all who follow the user by text
    • all who follow the user by IM
    • all who follow the user on the web
    • all who track a word the user just said

    There is a scale here that is mind-blowing when you consider the processing they are surely doing to get this thing working as well as it has for this long.

    Way to go twitter!

  • Anon E. Mous


    The  *cause* of the problem is power users posting. The *responsibility* of the problem is a system that isn’t scaling. Responsibily implies blame and there really isn’t any blame for the power users. They are simply using Twitter as it seems to be intended.



  • http://twitter.com/sbraymcpherson Sharon Bray-McPherson

    I agree with Matt that spammers are responsible for a lot of Twitter’s performance issues.

    I check the profile page of all of my followers.  If they are following thousands of others and only follow a handful themselves, it is a sure bet that it’s a spammer, so I block them.

    If more Twitter’s users would do the same it would probably help tremendously in cutting down on Twitter’s down time.



  • Ralphtips

    I am sorry but users are not to blame! Power users should be rewarded for their heavy and loyalty to twitter rather than being blamed for the slow downs. there are just using the site in the way its intended to be used.

    Imagine is Google search becomes slow, and google blames users who search alot for the slow in speed. get what I mean?!

    Instead of blaming users they should focus on developing and improving their system and platform because this slow performance is there mistake, they are still new and they are complaining what will they do when they start having massive amount of users!


    I have read about twitter not having enough money to finance their work and they have announced (as I remember) that they arent going to put ads on twitter, I guess thats wrong. if the problem is just about money they its in the best interest of users and twitter itself to get more money through ads or any other source to keep its systems working perfectly.



  • http://visibilityconsultants.com Barbara

    I don’t think Twitter was initially intended to be a forum for people to post minute-by-minute details of their life. I have stopped following several people who have thousands of followers and post 20, 50, 100 times or more per day. The minutae of their life isn’t interesting enough to allow it to clog my timeline. I want to keep up, but who needs a blow-by-blow account of when they ordered their latte, whether it was served well, how long it took to gulp it down, and when they ordered their next latte, etc., etc.  I don’t think Twitter anticipated that people would post every 5 minutes, all day, every day. Like every new technology, there are problems that arise, and people who abuse the system. I applaud Twitter for working hard to correct the problem on their end, while still remaining free. By the way, Twitter, if you’re reading this, I would pay to follow the people who are important to me.

  • http://mojovidedoworld.com Michelle

    -that if it is a question of money then maybe twitter should have some advertising on their site.They don’t need to go overboard, like some sites do, but a simple ad or two on a page should bring in the cash they need to fix some of these problems.
    -if spambots are causing the problem then twitter should have a manual verification (ie: a bunch of letters to type in or a math problem) when you want to follow someone that would prove that you are human after all :0)lol
    -that Ralptips has a point about if google were slow it wouldn’t be good for them to blame users so neither should twitter

    I only recently found twitter but I enjoy it.
    Long live twitter!

  • Guest

    It blows my mind that this is a free service and people get so irate when it doesn’t work…it shows how dependent they are on it to be there. I hope those who use it for business purposes (or to publicize themselves) don’t put so much strain on the system that it doesn’t work for those of us with a smaller (say, under 100) number of people in our networks.

  • http://carruthk.blogspot.com Kate Carruthers

    Even to someone like myself (who could be characterised as mathematically challenged) it is bleedin’ obvious that an application like Twitter will generate huge numbers of messages.  The simple facts:  when one posts a microblog it is potentially transmitted to web, IM,  text message.  If the user has a large number of followers then that will generate a lot of traffic (telco like levels if you are successful at all).  Then add to that all the other apps that use the API to pull data on updates… what have you got?  A really large transactional system akin to that of a telco.  Might need some rather large clusters of both servers & databases to manage that?  Might need to manage automated failover and 24×7 operations too?  Might want to hire a OLTP/ messaging experienced architect while you’re at it?