Why Was Twitter Down?

Thursday afternoon, a cryptic error message greeted Twitter users. It simply said, “Something is technically wrong.”

According to DownDetector.com, reports of problems at Twitter started pouring in at 2:46 pm ET Thursday afternoon. The outage was widespread. Tens of thousands of users worldwide reported problems accessing the site to the internet trouble-tracking site.

Map of Twitter outage reports
Users worldwide are reporting problems accessing Twitter. (CREDIT: DownDetector.com)

Reddit experienced some outages earlier in the day, according to The Independent. But, there’s no indication that the two are related.

Twitter Down due to an “Internal Configuration Change”

Twitter blamed the outage on an “internal configuration change.” Thursday afternoon, the micro-blogging site posted a message to their status website indicating that they were “investigating.”

An hour later, they identified the problem. “The outage was due to an internal configuration change, which we’re now fixing,” they wrote. “Some people may be able to access Twitter again and we’re working to make sure Twitter is available to everyone as quickly as possible.”

Last month, a configuration error led to a major disruption of Google Cloud services, including YouTube, Snapchat, Venmo, and Gmail among others. Google’s head of engineering, Benjamin Treynor Sloss, explained what went wrong in a blog post:

In essence, the root cause of Sunday’s disruption was a configuration change that was intended for a small number of servers in a single region. The configuration was incorrectly applied to a larger number of servers across several neighboring regions, and it caused those regions to stop using more than half of their available network capacity. The network traffic to/from those regions then tried to fit into the remaining network capacity, but it did not. The network became congested, and our networking systems correctly triaged the traffic overload and dropped larger, less latency-sensitive traffic in order to preserve smaller latency-sensitive traffic flows, much as urgent packages may be couriered by bicycle through even the worst traffic jam.

It took Google four and a half hours to fix the issue last month. This was in part because the outage affected tools Google’s engineers use to fix problems. However, Twitter was back to normal more quickly. Most users were able to access their accounts again by late Thursday afternoon. True to form, within minutes the sarcastic tweets followed.

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