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Technology of Twitter


In the early days of Twitter, tweets were stored in MySQL databases that were temporally sharded (large databases were split based on time of posting). After the huge volume of tweets coming in caused problems reading from and writing to these databases, the company decided that the system needed re-engineering.

From Spring 2007 to 2008, the messages were handled by a Ruby persistent queue server called Starling. Since 2009, implementation has been gradually replaced with software written in Scala. The switch from Ruby to Scala and the JVM has given Twitter a performance boost from 200–300 requests per second per host to around 10,000–20,000 requests per second per host. This boost was greater than the 10x improvement that Twitter's engineers envisioned when starting the switch. The continued development of Twitter has also involved a switch from monolithic development of a single app to an architecture where different services are built independently and joined through remote procedure calls.

Individual tweets are registered under unique IDs using software called snowflake, and geolocation data is added using 'Rockdove'. The URL shortner t.co then checks for a spam link and shortens the URL. Next, the tweets are stored in a MySQL database using Gizzard, and the user receives acknowledgement that the tweets were sent. Tweets are then sent to search engines via the Firehose API. The process is managed by FlockDB and takes an average of 350 ms.

On April 30, 2009, Twitter adjusted its Web interface, adding a search bar and a sidebar of "trending topics"+the most common phrases appearing in messages. Biz Stone explains that all messages are instantly indexed and that "with this newly launched feature, Twitter has become something unexpectedly important å a discovery engine for finding out what is happening right now.

In March 2012, Twitter became available in Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and Urdu, the first right-to-left language versions of the site. About 13,000 volunteers helped with translating the menu options. In August 2012, beta support for Basque, Czech and Greek was added, making the site available in 33 different languages.

During an outage, Twitter users were at one time shown the "fail whale" error message image created by Yiying Lu, illustrating eight orange birds using a net to hoist a whale from the ocean captioned "Too many tweets! Please wait a moment and try again." In a November 2013 WIRED interview Chris Fry, VP of Engineering at that time, noted that the company had taken the "fail whale" out of production as the platform was now more stable.

Twitter had approximately ninety-eight percent uptime in 2007 (or about six full days of downtime). The downtime was particularly noticeable during events popular with the technology industry such as the 2008 Macworld Conference & Expo keynote address.