Fail Whale

Fail Whale

Part of a series on Twitter / X. [View Related Entries]

Updated Mar 31, 2011 at 06:12PM EDT by Brad.

Added Aug 17, 2010 at 10:16AM EDT by Sapphire Sky.

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The Fail Whale is a way of showing when Twitter, would become under some maintenance to show as if the site is under repairs, as well… it's under maintenance. It originally became an image of a whale being carried by stings held by birds flying over the water. This then became into a texty version as users would use blocky characters in text to create a whale with the word "fail".

Twitter users are familiar with the image of the Fail Whale. This social object has been onto by Twitter fans not just as representing Twitter's downtime, but also as representing the community's love for the site. Despite Twitter's troubles, most of its users stayed true, watching and waiting as the team began the long process of recoding the application in order for it to scale up. As Twitter succumbed to the strain of running under-provisioned service, the Fail Whale image would show. And this image began to take on a life of its own. This is the story of the Fail Whale.


You probably thought that Twitter was using designs they paid for, right? Well, apparently that was not the case. The designer behind the Fail Whale, Yiying Lu, had posted the image to the stock photo web site, iStockPhoto. (She has now removed the original link). Although the image of the Fail Whale was widely known, the designer herself was not. Tom Limongello decided to change that.

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