Fail Whale Off the Starboard Bow, Matey: Exponential Growth Overloads Twitter

Ahoy, matey, Fail Whale off the starboard bow!

twitter-fail-whaleAccording to a March 31, 2009 article on CNN.com, Twitter is growing so fast that the system can’t seem to keep up with the increasing demand.

The result: more sightings of the “Fail Whale” — a whimsical drawing of a white whale being lifted up by small orange birds by artist Yiying Lu — that appears whenever Twitter is over capacity.

According to Nielsen NetView Twitter’s growth has been nothing short of astonishing: Unique visitor traffic jumped 1,374% between February 2008 and February 2009 — an exponential leap to 7 million users from 475,000.

Compare that with Facebook’s 228% increase to 65.7 million users during the same period of time.

The Fail Whale itself is a cultural phenomenon. The Fail Whale’s Twitter account currently has more than 2,772 followers. In addition, the CNN article adds that a Facebook group dedicated to the whale has more than 4,400 members.

Like Twitter, which has spawned the development of dozens of third party applications, the Fail Whale has also created a cottage industry of merchandise.

In addition, an absolutely hysterical Current TV parody of Twitter and the Fail Whale — recast as an evil and hungry creature bent on eating people on Twitter — has made it’s way around the Internet:

As much as twitterers (or is it tweeters?) dislike not being able to use the service, there is something strangely reassuring about the Fail Whale. Dare I say sometimes people even secretly hope to experience a sighting?