Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Cult of Twitter

Twitter is a very unique product.  It comes as no surprise that it has a unique relationship with its users. This relationship is really shines when the service goes down.  The twitter fail whale is iconic.  Little blue birds trying to carry a whale.  As someone who doesn't even use twitter, I have seen this image many places, at many times.  What is most intriguing to me is how Twitter branded themselves to be so cute.  By using imagery like that found on the fail whale, they have taken the absolute worst possible thing that could happen to a web service (ie. it not functioning) and turn it into something cute and tolerable.  

When twitter goes down, the site is filled with the image of small blue birds carrying a whale.  The second twitter goes down the internet blows up with articles about twitters outage.  This is no different then other mega services like gmail or facebook.  The difference is how users react to it.  No other service has this relationships with its customers.  Twitter failing has become "cute" because of the fail whale.

The reason people can interpret this as cute, is because twitter is not a necessary service.  It is a leisure service.  Even though companies can indirectly use it to gain customers or advertise, it is still primarily recreation.  This becomes apparent when, by contrast, a service like gmail goes down.  Personally, when gmail goes down by work stops.  I don't even receive that many emails per day (probably only a few per hour) but when gmail goes down I get up from the computer, because it has become synonymous with work.  I don't think twitter will ever have this relationship with its customers.

What do you think?  Do you get angry when you see the fail whale, or is something you can shrug off until the service comes back up?