Why #googlefail Is Really a #twitterfailS

An hour-long outage of some Google services this morning has turned into a full-fledged Twitter storm. What this really shows is a failure of Twitter to be meaningful and relevant to anything but Twitter.

Since it runs on fallible computers programmed by fallible humans, Google has gone down before, and it's safe to predict that it will go down again. But today there was an unspecified outage, apparently specific to some Internet service providers, and is already over (though some Twitter users are still re-reporting Google's downtime as breaking news). There have been tens of thousands of tweets about #googlefail but none gave much more information than the Associated Press's hilariously vague lede on this pressing story: "Technical problems at Google are preventing an unknown number of people from using its Internet search engine, e-mail and other services."

Soon enough, we'll be reading Twitter pundits twitterpatedly explaining how this was a crucial watershed moment for the message-broadcasting service. The flood of messages tagged "#googlefail," they'll argue, surely alerted Google and the Internet service providers who carry its traffic to the problem; it would not have been fixed otherwise.

Nonsense. Google's own status dashboard shows the problem was identified at 8:23 a.m. Pacific Time; it was fixed, Google's engineers say, at 9:39 a.m. Yet Twitter and the news-hungry tech blogosphere are going on, and on, and on.

The concept Twitter fans like to advance is that it's a real-time means of diagnosing customer-service issues before they blow up into big problems. What Twitter actually does is inflate problems out of all proportion, as Twitterers noisily tweet about how with it, on it, and over it they all are, repeating each other's messages without adding anything of value. Any Googler trying to search Twitter to diagnose his company's networking problem would go mad long before he extracted useful information.

Who's going to report this outage? No one on Twitter, certainly. They're too busy congratulating themselves for yet another Twictory over reality and common sense.

(Illustration by ivanlanin)