What to do when Tumblr takes a tumble?

On Monday frustrated Tumblr users were forced to use Twitter to voice their frustration with a massive, unplanned outage at the short-form blog service Tumblr. Tumblr itself resorted to using Twitter to keep users updated on its efforts to end the outage.

At 4pm it tweeted “This has been a slow and painful recovery, but we’re almost through. We’ll have more info to share as soon as we can post to our blog again.” Then, nine hours later, it followed up with “We’re working quickly to recover from a major issue in one of our database clusters.
We’re incredibly sorry for the inconvenience.” Two hours later it reported that all Tumblr blogs were back online and that it was incrementally restoring access to the dashboard, which would allow users to make changes to their blogs.

On Tuesday, almost 24 hours after it first went down, Tumblr explained the chain of events that lead to the outage on it’s blog.

“Yesterday afternoon, during planned maintenance that was not intended to interrupt service, an issue arose that took down a critical database cluster. This brought down our entire network while our engineers worked feverishly to restore these databases and bring your blogs back online,” said staff.

The organisation said that its small team had had trouble keeping up with the site’s rapid growth. According to Tumblr, traffic is growing by more than 500-million page views a month. It said it had quadrupled the size of its engineering team this month alone and working at making its architecture more resilient.

Short-form blogging
Tumblr bills itself as “the easiest way to blog” and allows users to post short texts, picture, audio and video updates from the internet or directly from their mobile phones. More than a microblogging platform like Twitter but less than a fully-fledged blogging platform like Wordpress, Tumblr’s short-form blog service has attracted millions of users. According to the web analytics service quantcast, 48,8-million people use Tumblr each month.

This week’s Tumblr downtime, which lasted more than a day, was perhaps one of the worst seen by a major website in recent years.

In November, Tumblr users engaged in a running battle with users at the imageboard 4Chan. An imageboard is primarily used to upload and discuss pictures and the two sites, which feature similar content, have a long-standing animosity towards each other. This culminated in denial of service attacks from users on both sites which temporarily brought down both Tumblr and 4Chan.

A sprinkling of Tumblelogs
Garfield without Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips “in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle” and “a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb”.
I Love Charts is a Tumblelog “by people who love charts for people who love charts”.

Unhappy Hipsters is one of the many Tumblelogs to take the mickey out of hipster culture.

Pratt is a picture blog featuring interesting design.

“Fuck Yeah” Tumblelogs list images and captions based on a theme and are a common feature on Tumblr. They could feature anything from cats to a celebrity’s hair.

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She writes on everything from pop science to public health, and believes South Africa needs carbon taxes and more raging feminists. When she isn't instagramming pictures of her toddler or obsessively checking her Twitter, she plays third-person shooters on Xbox Live. Read more from Faranaaz Parker

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