The Twitpocalypse is Near: Will Your Twitter Client Survive?

Michael Manoochehri
Jun. 09 2009, 03:31AM EDT

Within the next few days, some applications and mashups based on the Twitter API may behave unpredictably or even crash - at least that's the warning given by Canadian software company WhereCloud's Twitpocalypse website. This impending "Twitpocalypse," much like the famous Y2K bug of 2000, is based on a data processing limitation.

Every tweet in Twitter's system is uniquely identified by an integer value. For example, the system's very first public tweet, "just setting up my twttr," by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, is tweet number 20 (presumably tweets 0 through 19 were used for testing). The maximum signed 32-bit integer value for most database applications is 2,147,483,648. This is a huge value, but the accelerating popularity of Twitter means has the amount of tweets is rapidly approaching this limit. If third party application developers haven't designed their Twitter clients to store tweet IDs using something like the less restrictive unsigned 64-bit integer data structure, users might start seeing strange errors, such as tweets listed in the wrong order - or worse, applications not working at all.

twitpo

Current.com blogger James O'Malley recently posted this message explaining the Twitpocalypse's potential for programmatic mayhem:

"Twitter will probably have thought about this in advance, but the worry is the twitter clients: the tweetdecks, the twhirls, the tweeties and the twitterfoxes of this world: have they prepared? Can they count to 2,147,483,648? If not, things could get messy."

Is the Twitpocalypse a real problem for third party applications using the Twitter API, or is WhereCloud's warning a simple publicity stunt that will fizzle out with the same whimper as the Y2K bug? A real Twitpocalypse seems unlikely, as it would mean that a large number of Twitter client developers have carelessly designed their systems with insufficient data limits. If anything, the Twitpocalypse is a lesson in implementing programming best practices for developers who use third party APIs. Standards-based web services like the Twitter API may be robust and reliable, but no API can guarantee that the data structures used in an application have been well designed.

How does the Twitter API team feel about an impending Twitpocalypse? Twitter API developer Doug Williams recently posted this tweet to the API's official feed:

"A friendly reminder: we're nearing the http://www.twitpocalypse.com/. Ensure you are storing status_ids as unsigned integers."

and followed it up less than an hour later with this tweet:

"...we're using a unsigned 64-bit bigint internally to store status_ids. You should, too."

Meanwhile, in the span between Doug's two posts, over 450,000 other tweets were added to the system, bringing users that much closer to microblogging doom.

Twitpocalypse Warning

Even if most developers are prepared to properly handle the ever growing amount of Twitter tweets, they may have to deal with another Twitpocalypse in the future - the very distant future. MySQL's BIGINT upper limit tops out at 18,446,744,073,709,551,615. To put that value into perspective, every single one of the 6.8 billion people on Earth would have to post 2.7 billion tweets each to reach this limit. Twitter is exploding in popularity, but at this point, it looks like there won't be another Twitpocalypse for quite some time.

Michael Manoochehri

Comments

Comments(28)

[...] Did you know that Twitpocalypse is near? No we are not all getting horribly addicted to tweeting, though ESPN jocks clearly are. Instead, there is a bug in the Twitter system that would be like Y2K. Apparently each tweet is identified by an integer value and the maximum signed 32-bit integer value for most database applications is 2,147,483,648. And since Twitter is getting so popular, we are inching close to that number. You can keep track of it here. Now if I remember correctly, the Y2K bug didn’t really cause any major havoc. Unless you blame Y2K for bursting the dot-com bubble. [...]

[...] Das Ende für Twitter ist nah, darauf will uns die Website „Twitpocalypse“ des kanadischen Software-Unternehmens „wherecloud“ aufmerksam machen. Hintergrund: Jeder Tweet wird mit einer eindeutigen Nummer versehen, damit er zum Beispiel auch über die Twitter-API abgerufen werden kann. Die meisten Twitter-Anwendungen und Mashups verstehen aber nur Zahlen im 32-bit-Raum, also bis 2.147.483.648. Aktuell sind aber schon 2.089.444.507, nein halt jetzt sind es schon 2.089.447.363, 2.089.449.243, 2.089.449.907... Gut, wer da schon das Jahr 2000 miterlebt/überlebt hat und dementsprechend Endzeiterfahrungen sammeln konnte. (via programmableweb) [...]

[...] #Twitpocalypse overhyped? Posted by Thomas Powell - 10/06/09 at 09:06 am Initially heard through Programmable Web:  The Twitpocalypse is Near: Will Your Twitter Client Survive?, twitter is rapidly approaching the maximum for a 32-bit signed int.  You can view the countdown [...]

I seen the impact from reading at http://bit.ly/OMGtwit This is like Y2K but effects were minimal. I know Twitterholic was down yesterday and other programs like TweetDeck, Twitteriffic, and Tweetie were affect too. Check out that site! Best twitter trends site

Post this on Diego Share this on Red it Buzz up! Stumble upon something good? Share it on Stumble Upon Share this on Technocratic Share this on Mix Post this to My Space submit this to Design Float Share this on Face book Tweet This Same basic thing is happening to Face book user id’s, but I believe they used an unsigned integer.<a href="http://www.cheapairlinetickets.net/" rel="nofollow">san diego injury attorneys</a>

ed

I've had a twitter client in the relationship niche and it's been a very up and down game as the time passes. We use it to help guys pick up women. Learning <a href="http://www.pick-up-women.net" rel="nofollow">how to pick up beautiful women</a> can help in so many areas of your life. That is why we use twitter to try and get our message across. For the most part it's been very beneficial.

Howdy! I could have sworn I've been to your blog before but after browsing through many of the articles I realized it's new to me.

Anyways, I'm definitely pleased I discovered it and I'll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

Within this Turbulence Training assessment I would like to break

down all the hype surrounding the program as well as deliver my own, personal suffers

from while using program. I'd heard of your originator Craig Ballantyne before by simply reading through Males Wellbeing magazine and so i has been sure that he a few legitimacy to his / her identify. These days anybody on the net can produce a book along with mug individuals in to purchasing this therefore i planned to be sure that this person recognized his stuff. Turbulence Training training is certainly not a new magic pill regarding shedding fat however it is an incredible application that will present you with a lot better final results than traditional bodybuilder workout routines.

The basic coaching principles at the rear of this program can be high intensity interval training workout, that is clinically proven of burning seven instances the maximum amount of extra fat while standard regular state cardio exercise. But this kind of interval training workouts definitely includes a price tag since you'll have to work a good deal harder to find the

preferred outcomes. Even if you may possibly accomplish continuous state cardiovascular and this will end up being not hard as you watch TV by using an elliptical machine however when you might be

undertaking intense interval training workout you'll be exercising very difficult. An improvement to be able to accomplishing this kind of education is you might be in addition going to be capable of getting far more completed in any shorter amount of time. Therefore rather than staying at a health club all night at a time, you are able to rather have a extremely effective workout in mere 20-30 moments.

[...] The Twitpocalypse is Almost Here: Will Your Twitter Client Survive? Submit this to Script &amp; StyleShare this on BlinklistShare this on del.icio.usDigg this!Post this on DiigoShare this on RedditBuzz up!Stumble upon something good? Share it on StumbleUponShare this on TechnoratiShare this on MixxPost this to MySpaceSubmit this to DesignFloatShare this on FacebookTweet This!Email this to a friend?Subscribe to the comments for this post?Share this on LinkedinSeed this on NewsvineShare this on DevmarksAdd this to Google BookmarksAdd this to Mister WongAdd this to IzebyShare this on TumblrShare this on Tipd [...]

[...] Die Twitpocalypse ist nahe! Was das heißt? Einige Programme und Mashups rund um Twitter könnten bald den Geist aufgeben. Hier wird das Nahen der Twitpocalypse dokumentiert und hier bei Programmable Web erklärt. [...]

It's a shame they didn't at least use an unsigned integer. They would have been able to do twice as many messages before hiting the limit. Same basic thing is happening to Facebook user id's, but I believe they used an unsigned integer.

I'll never understand why but many programmers use a signed integer type for something that can never be negative. Worse - they use -1 instead of an enumeration value or bool elsewhere, thus using 31 bits for a 1 bit value.