Recently the folks behind Twitter came clean on the architecture behind the service and it is quite clear that the entire service is being held together by chewing gum and baling wire. Only three MySQL database servers for a service that has the I/O requirements of Twitter? Consider how that compares to other Web 2.0 sites that have come clean with their database numbers; Facebook has 1800, Flickr has 166, even Wikipedia has 20. Talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Given the fact that Twitter has had scaling issues for over a year it is surprising that not only has it taken so long for them to figure out that they need a re-architecture but more importantly they decided that having a developer/sys admin manage fail over and traffic spikes by hand was cheaper to the business than buying more hardware and a few weeks of coding. 

A popular social networking that focuses on features instead of performance while upstart competitors are waiting in the wings? Sounds like a familiar song doesn't it? This entire episode reminds me of a story I read in the New York Times a few years ago titled The Wallflower at the Web Party which contains the following familiar sounding excerpts

But the board also lost sight of the task at hand, according to Kent Lindstrom, an early investor in Friendster and one of its first employees. As Friendster became more popular, its overwhelmed Web site became slower. Things would become so bad that a Friendster Web page took as long as 40 seconds to download. Yet, from where Mr. Lindstrom sat, technical difficulties proved too pedestrian for a board of this pedigree. The performance problems would come up, but the board devoted most of its time to talking about potential competitors and new features, such as the possibility of adding Internet phone services, or so-called voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, to the site.
In retrospect, Mr. Lindstrom said, the company needed to devote all of its resources to fixing its technological problems. But such are the appetites of companies fixated on growing into multibillion-dollar behemoths. They seek to run even before they can walk.

“Friendster was so focused on becoming the next Google,” Professor Piskorski said, “that they weren’t focused on fixing the more mundane problems standing in the way of them becoming the next Google.”
“We completely failed to execute,” Mr. Doerr said. “Everything boiled down to our inability to improve performance.”

People said about Friendster the same thing they say about Twitter, we travel in tribes - people won't switch to Pownce or Jaiku because all their friends use Twitter. Well Friendster thought the same thing until MySpace showed up and now we have Facebook doing the same to them.

It is a very vulnerable time for Twitter and a savvy competitor could take advantage of that by adding a few features while courting the right set of influential users to jumpstart an exodus. The folks at FriendFeed could be that competitor but I suspect they won't. The Bret & Paul have already boxed their service into being an early adopter's play thing when there's actually interesting mainstream potential for their service. They'd totally put paid to their dreams of being a household brand if they end up simply being a Twitter knock off even if they could end up outplaying Evan and Biz at the game they invented.

Now Playing: Bob Marley - Redemption Song