Is Twitter vs Jaiku a Replay of Friendster vs MySpace

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Jeff Atwood tells me he’s thinking of leaving Twitter for Jaiku. Scoble wrote about how Leo Laporte already left.

Strangely enough, I’m having a sense of deja vu.

logo Twitter would do well to study the lessons learned in the history of Friendster vs MySpace. Building a Twitter clone is not rocket science. There is no huge barrier to entry. The only thing that keeps twitter on top of other services is their large user base.

As danah boyd points out in this essay which compares Friendster vs MySpace, People use the social technologies that all their friends are using. I personally am hesitant to switch, because everyone I know is on Twitter, not on some other platform.

However, too many days of showing users this damn cat (yes, I’m a dog person) instead of their friends and it won’t be long before they leave in droves.

Atwood is convinced that Twitter needs to switch to a platform other than Rails. As danah points out in the essay, it is not about technological perfection. Sticking to Rails because of the beauty of the code doesn’t matter to the masses. Especially when the service is always down.

I am more ambivalent on the question of whether they should leave Rails since I don’t fully understand if Rails is the bottleneck.

My experience with is that most scaling problems are the result of poorly written code, not the platform. More specifically, data access code is where I would look first. Simple mistakes like making a database call per item when loading a collection of hundreds or thousands of items can kill the scaling of a site. We recently fixed a bug like that in Subtext when displaying hundreds of comments. It can happen to anyone.

Twitter’s CEO blogged about yesterday’s outages in a post entitled, The Devil’s in the Details. Indeed. In any case, I’ll stick with Twitter a little while longer. But if they don’t do something soon, I’ll see you on Jaiku.

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11 responses

  1. Avatar for engtech
    engtech May 20th, 2007

    What's funny is who knows if Jaiku's scaling is any better? :)

  2. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked May 20th, 2007

    True. But if Jaiku is smart, they're planning for it and hoping that Twitter doesn't resolve the problem soon. If Twitter resolves the scaling issue quickly, then Jaiku will most likely be relegated to a Trivia Pursuit Geek Edition question some day.
    I for one, hope Twitter solves the problem. I like it. I don't want to switch.

  3. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked May 20th, 2007

    @Engtech, I had an idea. We should build and make it bare-bones and absolutely scalable. Keep it under the radar until both Twitter and Jaiku fail under their own wait. And then unleash it on the world!

  4. Avatar for Sam Smoot
    Sam Smoot May 20th, 2007

    I wouldn't count on Twitter fixing it's scaling problems very quickly.
    I mean, they could obviously. If Rails is the cause (and let's face it, what else could it be?), then it's not like the problems are so large that they'd take very long to work out.
    Sticking your head in the sand and trying to work around core design issues isn't going to get you anywhere in the long run though. Side-skirting fundamental design flaws is band-aiding at best. It doesn't look like most Rails developers (or Twitter for that matter) have got to that place where they're willing to accept that some cows are holy for a reason though.
    Here's a rather straight-forward solution to Rails performance woes:
    * Less "beauty" in the framework itself (not necessarily in your application), smaller call-stacks.
    * Embrace the language. Don't invent your own variable-bags when instance variables would do.
    * Fowler and the GoF are better architects than most anyone else. Ignore their advice on how to implement "X" at your own peril.
    I've been lazy the past few months, but with these guide-lines I was able to create my DataMapper project and easily able to boost performance vs ActiveRecord anywhere from 2x to 10x. That's just 1 part of Rails. And you don't give up anything (well, aside from maturity, lots of eyes, support for lots of databases, etc). The syntax for usage is actually even more terse, even more magical.
    The Merb project does much the same for the ActionPack side of things, boosting the performance of a simple "HelloWorld" application to almost 700 requests-per-second.
    I think I've read Twitters real, average load is actually around 600 requests-per-second.
    So say Rails+ActiveRecord nets you around 10 optimized, uncached requests-per-second. This is a loaded "write" action. Where the performance bottlenecks really start hurtin' you.
    Say Merb+DataMapper nets youd around 50.
    How much administrative/hardware/concurrency/locking overhead can you avoid if you suddenly start getting 5X the throughput from the same processes? Not to mention the much nicer user experience from an average latency of 20ms vs 100ms.
    ...but the community isn't quite there yet I think. We'll go on about pompous-sounding typography issues while completely ignoring usability studies that say there are few more black & white issues on the web than latency when it comes to visitor retention. But we'll get there eventually. :-) And for some of us, with very cache-friendly applications, it really doesn't matter that much if it takes awhile for that day to roll around.

  5. Avatar for Scott
    Scott May 20th, 2007

    It's a moot point. Jaiku allows you to add RSS feeds to your Jaiku stream. So you can just add your "Me with friends" feed to your Jaiku stream and use Jaiku if you want to. The only thing is you won't be able to "respond" to your Twitter friends unless you write an application that uses the Twitter API. So really, we're back to the pre-Trillian/Gaim/you-got-your-Yahoo-in-my-MSN-Messenger world where you need multiple IM accounts just to contact all of your friends. My wife is on Yahoo, my best friend is on MSN (and refuses to upgrade MSN Messenger). Now I'll have 1/2 my friends on Twitter and 1/2 on Jaiku.
    So add your Twitter stream to Jaiku and see if using Twitter as a "global IM" is really what it's about.
    I added my Tumblr blog to my Jaiku stream ( ), which captures my Twitter stream as well as my Yahoo favorites, Google Reader shared items, and blog posts. It's a global Lazycoder aggregate! It's a UNION ALL for my online life.

  6. Avatar for Keith Elder
    Keith Elder May 21st, 2007

    On thing that scares me about Jaiku is their text message number is an international number. I don't know if Cingular (my carrier) chargers diffrently for that or not but worth noting.

  7. Avatar for Karthik
    Karthik May 21st, 2007

    I never moved off Friendster and onto MySpace...I think the same might happen with me and Twitter...maybe when all you guys leave the service will be faster :P

  8. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked May 21st, 2007

    @Karthik what's the point of a fast service if nobody is there. It's like going to a club and you're the only one on the dance floor. Sure the line to get drinks is short, but how boring is that?

  9. Avatar for Steven Harman
    Steven Harman May 21st, 2007

    >> Sure the line to get drinks is short, but how boring is that?
    Depends on where your priorities are. :)

  10. Avatar for you've been HAACKED
    you've been HAACKED June 2nd, 2007

    Twitter Solves the Chat Usability Problem

  11. Avatar for Community Blogs
    Community Blogs June 2nd, 2007

    Ok, this will be my last post on Twitter for the time being. My last two posts on the subject pointed