What if Twitter had been built by Amazon.com's Web Services team?

twitter by aws? I’ve been using Twitter for a long time now, and I can’t remember a period of downtime quite as bad as the current one. Features have been disabled, and there’s no ETA for when everything will be back to normal. Who knows, maybe it won’t ever be. Which got me wondering about why Twitter’s reliability is so terrible. Is it the nature of the application, or is it something to do with the people behind Twitter?

What if Twitter had been built by a different team, a team with a pretty good track record for high-availability services? What if Twitter had been built by the Web Services team at Amazon.com?

I think it’s safe to say that things would be quite different:

  1. Reliable, redundant infrastructure
    Twitter would be run inside Amazon’s high-availability data centers. We would never know (or care) that Twitter’s main database was named db006, nor would we ever wonder whether it has a good backup. We’d just know that if it’s good enough for Amazon, it’s good enough for us.
  2. No wondering, “is Twitter working?”
    Instead of wondering if Twitter is working correctly or waiting for Twitter messages or blog posts that explain what the problem is, Twitter would be part of the AWS Service Health Dashboard. We’d be able to see, at a glance, how Twitter is working now, and how well it has worked for the last month. This is what transparency is all about.
  3. Twitter wouldn’t be free, but we’d be cool with that
    Twitter would have had a business model from day one, and we’d all be cheering about how affordable it is. A pay-as-you-go model like all the other web services from Amazon would work quite well for Twitter. You get what you pay for, right?
  4. Premium Support and SLAs
    Speaking of getting what you pay for, Amazon would likely have realized that there are lots of different types of users, and they’d react accordingly. We’d probably have Premium Support for Twitter, to service support requests more efficiently. We’d also have Service Level Agreements.
  5. We wouldn’t call it Twitter…
    Of course, the service wouldn’t be called Twitter. In keeping with Amazon’s other services it would probably have a name like “Amazon Simple Messaging Service”, or SMS for short. Though I suppose that acronym is already taken!

I am a huge Twitter fan, and I really do hope that Ev, Biz, Jack, and the rest of the team get things working and fixed. With every passing hour of downtime though, I lose a little bit of faith. I wonder if Twitter would be better off in someone else’s hands.

Of course, if Twitter really had been built by AWS, there would be far more differences than just the items in my list above. The service may not be recognizable as Twitter!

That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t adopt some of these items as improvements, however. I’d love to see an official Twitter health dashboard, for instance. One can hope.

8 thoughts on “What if Twitter had been built by Amazon.com's Web Services team?

  1. If Twitter hadn’t been free from the start (and still free), you can almost guarentee it wouldn’t have the uptake and usage it does now, especially considering that people can get many similar types of services for free (blogging, messaging, etc).

  2. I agree with the above comment. I don’t think I would pay for Twitter, when facebook status messages function in the same way.

    Also, if Twitter is so crappy – why *hasn’t* a competitor built something that is more reliable than Twitter?

  3. Definitely, if Twitter had cost money to use from the start, it wouldn’t be as popular as it is now. And let’s not forget that it is still fairly niche.

    Good question Shermie. Hard to answer though. Even if a competitor (like Pownce or Jaiku) had built something more reliable than Twitter, we wouldn’t know it, because no other service has the number of users that Twitter does.

    Twitter is interesting because it’s part community and part utility. And generally, those two things are very different.

  4. Has anyone considered that lack of resources (from lack of revenue streams and cash) to grow, or even sustain the business, could be the reason behind the issues?

    Perhaps they expectd to have been bought by now – many business see that as they exit model, then most likely followed by ad-supported. Charging, profitable business – nahhh…

  5. That makes some sense Colin, except that they just raised $15 million on an $80 million pre-money valuation. There are far more expensive ways to get money, which they could have explored if they were really running out of resources.

  6. Well, keep in mind that Amazon wasn’t perfect at the beginning and this came to play once again in their developer services that they started last year. Their storage facilities went down for approximately three days with that one. (No real communication from them either.)

  7. That’s true Paul, but Amazon has demonstrated very well that they learn from their mistakes and from their community. They’ve made progress after each problem. You can’t say the same thing about Twitter.

  8. This unfortunately is true. Not that they are not trying but I think quite possibly there is a slight difference between a group of people running a site and a multi-billion dollar company running one.

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