UPDATED 15:41 EDT / JUNE 12 2009

The Apocalypse Will Be Scheduled [Are You Kidding Me?]

image If you’re in any way dependent on Twitter for mission critical work or as the basis for any projects you’ve invested significant amounts of time in, you probably want to read up on the atrociously named Twitpocalypse.  I caught this earlier in the week, but discounted it as a ridiculously tin foil hat method of gaining attention by the group who put out the site, WhereCloud.

MG Siegler has done an impressive bout of investigative journalism in putting together a post indicating that Twitter is actually taking seriously this claim of Twitpocalypse.

What the Hell is a Twitpocalypse?
This is the description over at WhereCloud’s site:

The Twitpocalypse is similar to the Y2K bug. Very soon the unique identifier associated to each tweet will exceed 2,147,483,647

For some of your favorite third-party Twitter services not designed to handle such a case, the sequence will suddenly turn into negative numbers. At this point, they are very likely to malfunction or crash.

When will this happen? Check here often, and we will tell you how close we are to the Twitpocalypse

The current ETA listed at the site is: 13 Jun 2009 at 05:20:34 AM GMT.

The End Can’t Come Soon Enough


As MG notes, the Twitter API developers are taking this whole thing very seriously, and are moving up the “Twitpocalypse” to this afternoon. While I feel sort of silly every time I have to use that word, the Twitter API team doesn’t seem to:

The responses to @twitterapi and all discussions internally show a preference to not waiting until the middle of the night. The current plan is to force this issue at 21:00 GMT (2:00pm Pacific/5:00pm Eastern for those in the US). This will let us make sure we have all staff available in the unlikely event something goes wrong on our end. We’ll also be available when people who don’t follow the twitter-dev-talk list start reporting errors. While we did warn developers about the Twitpocalypse I’m sorry we didn’t think about setting a drop-dead date and scheduling this previously. We’ll keep trying to improve on warnings like this. Good night, and good luck.

Rather ominous.

I can’t say for certain that I believe that this will be that big of a deal.  Even though the system will start spitting out negative numbers as unique identifiers, most programs and apps will, in my expectation, not really care, since it’s still a unique number, and computers don’t really have a hard time distinguishing between negative and positive.

Still, there might be some unique cases where things break.  If you’re responsible for an app or program that relies on Twitter, keep an eye on it for the next several hours and see if it starts messing up; that’s really the best advice I can give.

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