The Fail Whale is an image created by Ms. Yiying Lu of a whale being lifted out of the ocean by a flock of small birds. In 2008, Twitter began using it as the image that would appear whenever the Web site crashed. It has since become a pop-culture phenomenon, appearing on shirts, mugs and even tattoos. The now-famous whale also spawned a fan club and two over-capacity celebrations in San Francisco honoring its visage.
Twitter's core users are not the young, under-25 demographic that dominates other social networking sites. The average Twitter user is 31, and its largest user base is between the ages of 35 and 49 [source: Lenhart]. In fact, people as old as 104 use the service [source: Moore].
However, despite Twitter users' impressive age range, a lot of what people twitter about is standard Internet fare. Large amounts of bandwidth across the Web are regularly devoted to ongoing debates by tech junkies, film fanatics and video game addicts. These tech-savvy Web users often communicate over e-mail, message boards and Twitter in long diatribes debating the value of specific video game consoles, breaking movie news and the general worth of the latest application or gadget. So it should come as no surprise that in January 2008, Twitter crashed after too many tweets were sent flying over Steve Jobs' presentation at MacWorld [source: Siegler].
Twitter's servers have been ramped up admirably since that time, but some groundbreaking revelation in the "geek" community could easily crash the service again. At this year's E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), the format is returning to the festival-like atmosphere it abandoned in 2007, and many expect the revitalized proceedings and breaking video game news to energize gamers across the globe, which, of course, could be bad for Twitter.
It's not just E3, however. Any groundbreaking news in the tech or entertainment industry could potentially squash millions of tweets and cause people all over the world to see Twitter's famous floating whale.