A few minutes ago, in Mohali, India, one of the most eagerly anticipated sporting clashes of recent years got underway. As I write, India and Pakistan are battling it out to see who will meet Sri Lanka in cricket’s World Cup final.
But the match isn’t just a test of the respective XIs. It’s also likely to be a measure of Twitter.
In its early days – not so long ago – the fail whale, Twitter’s purportedly self-deprecating signal of overloaded servers and attendant downtime, was sufficiently common to be a source of humour among the social media specialists who at the time represented the service’s user base. As the network has grown in popularity, fail whale sightings have become less frequent, but major global events such as last year’s FIFA World Cup can still exert enough pressure to prompt its reappearance.
Last week, Twitter announced that it had moved into a custom-built data center designed to handle its unique needs, one which the company claims will be the service’s “final nesting ground.” As one popular tech blogger remarked, the move leaves Twitter with “few excuses left for extended or frequent downtime“.
The timing might be just a coincidence, but Twitter would be well advised to prepare for heavy demand over the next few hours.
Cricket and Twitter might seem slightly unlikely bedfellows, but part of this, at least, is a numbers game. Home to 1.18 billion people, India accounts for over 17% of the global population; there are another 170 million people in Pakistan. At the beginning of 2010, one report claimed that there were 2.5 million Indian Twitterers, but since that time there has been significant growth fuelled by interest among the country’s political and Bollywood elite.
But it’s not just about volume – this is about passion. The two countries’ geo-political and religious rivalries have already made for some combative exchanges in social media in the build up to the match.
With the peoples’ sporting heroes at the wicket, Twitter is about to find out just how robust its new servers are.