Archive for September, 2010

Twitter API Calls Doubled Since April: Now Serving 70,000 Every Second

16 Sep

TwitterHave you ever wondered how much traffic Twitter handles in a given day, or what software sits behind the curtain of the popular service?  A recent presentation reveals some of the answers. Twitter’s incredible growth becomes obvious when you compare the recent numbers to those announced at Chirp.

On September 9th, Twitter’s university recruiting team stopped by UC Berkeley to talk about the company and what it does. The slides from platform engineer Raffi Krikorian’s talk, Twitter by the Numbers, are now online, and they disclose some fascinating technical details about the social media giant’s operations.

Twitter serves over 70 million tweets per day, totaling over 12GB of tweet text alone.  Many of those messages are delivered to client apps and web sites through the Twitter API to the tune of six billion API calls per day (double what was announced at Chirp in April), or about 70,000 API calls per second.  All told, the service generates 8TB of data every day, which is eight times more than the New York Stock Exchange.

Pop quiz, engineers: Your web service needs to deliver real-time message traffic to an asymmetric digraph of over 150 million users.  What database do you use?  WHAT DATABASE DO YOU USE?

    • Shoot the hostage
    • Oracle
    • MySQL
    • Write your own database

      If you’re Twitter, the correct answer is #4:  Create your own database software, call it FlockDB, and release it on github.  (By the way, if you picked option 1, maybe software engineering isn’t the right career choice for you.)

      FlockDB is just one of the home-grown, high-performance software systems Twitter uses to support its tremendous growth.  Others include:

      • hosebird, a “near real-time” streaming API back-end (instead of REST, which is only “pseudo real-time”); and
      • snowflake (also on github), a network service to generate unique IDs at high scale (MySQL couldn’t keep up, and was a single point of failure).

      With a stated goal of supporting “half the world and all its devices,” Twitter faces many engineering challenges.  This peek under the hood (full slides are embedded below) shows that they’re aware of the potential problems, and are working hard to steer clear of the fail whale.

      Via Delyn Simons

      Related ProgrammableWeb Resources

      Twitter Twitter API Profile, 459 mashups


      The Most Powerful Colors in the World

      15 Sep

      When we released our report on the colors of the social web, based on data analyzed by our Twitter theme tool, we were surprised that blue was such a dominant color in people's profile designs. Was Twitter's default color influencing their design decisions? Or is blue really THE most popular and dominant color online? ...We decided to look at the colors in the brands from the top 100 sites in the world to see if we could paint a more colorful picture.

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      [click to view in full size]

      Turns out the blue-berry doesn't fall far from the bush. The web landscape is dominated by a large number of blue brands... but Red occupies a large amount of space as well. What's driving this? You might want to say that carefully organized branding research and market tests were done to choose the perfect colors to make you spend your money, but a lot of the brands that have grown to be global web powerhouses, started as small web startups... and while large corporate giants with branding departments spend quite a lot on market research, user testing, branding, etc. Lots of the sites listed above got started with brands created by the founders themselves with little to no research into the impact their color choice would have. I once asked Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook why he chose blue for his site design... "I'm color blind, it's the only color I can see." ...and now 500 Million people around the world stare at a mostly blue website for hours each week.

      While the initial reasoning for the colors chosen may be trivial, the impact that these dominant players now have in the web world will surely influence the smaller startups that want to share in the positive color associations created by their bigger siblings... Once a rocketship of a web startup takes flight, there are a number of Jr. internet astronauts hoping to emulate their success... and are inspired by their brands. And so Blue and Red will probably continue to dominate, but we can have hope for the GoWalla's, DailyBooth's and other more adventurous brands out there.

      Would A Corporation By Any Other Color, Still Profit As Well?

      Color is an important part of any brand, but along with the actual name of a company... Is it a great brand that builds a great company, or the other way around? Would Google, Google just as well with another name? My guess is yes.

      And almost 10 years ago, Wired Magazine looked at the Colors of the corporate America... Blue & Red dominate again.

      Companies spend millions trying to differentiate from others. Yet a quick look at the logos of major corporations reveals that in color as in real estate, it's all about location, location, location. The result is an ever more frantic competition for the best neighborhood. Here's a look at the new blue bloods. [Wired Magazine]

      The Colors of 1 Million Brand Icons

      And a brand can extend further than just your logo... On the web it reaches into the address bar in the form of a Favicon. It's quite amazing to explore, but the top 1,000,000 website Favicons can be browsed here at Icons of the Web:
      See if you can find the COLOURlovers icon!

      Uh-oh! But Will We Run Out of Color on the Web?

      Last year Francisco Inchauste posted a very interesting article on SixRevisions about the limited resource of color... not in physical form, but in mind share. (Even linking to a post we did a while back about T-Mobile and it's trademark of "Magenta")

      As a designer, it is important to be aware of the trending colors, and how they are being applied in products and work produced today. What really isn’t being discussed by the design world at large though are the limitations being set on color. Color is as free for us to use as the air we breathe… or is it? [SixRevisions]

      The Next Big Color Trend

      You are the next great founder, designer, influencer or creative mind that may build the next Facebook. You have the power to influence future color trends... What colors will you choose?


      The BEST Bathroom Sign EVER

      14 Sep

      via LikeCool via Cracked


      #657; The Negotiator

      14 Sep

      has anyone ever done a roshambo/rashomon crossover? 'I WON'  'NO, *I* WON'


      #657; The Negotiator

      14 Sep

      has anyone ever done a roshambo/rashomon crossover? 'I WON'  'NO, *I* WON'


      A welcome and a look back

      13 Sep

      The Reader team was saddened to hear that Bloglines will be shutting its doors on October 1. Bloglines was a pioneer in the feed reading space, and for Web 2.0 in general.

      We know that nothing will be quite like Bloglines in the hearts of its users, but if you're looking for another online feed reader, we encourage you to give Reader a shot. All you need is a Google account (you already have one if you use Gmail) -- and here's a video to help you get started. It's also very easy to bring your Bloglines subscriptions over, you just have to export them from Bloglines and import them into Reader.

      Since Reader's fifth anniversary is also approaching (though it feels like yesterday, Reader was launched on October 7, 2005), we thought it might be a good time to reflect on how Reader has grown over the past few years. While we were busy redesigning (twice!), making friends with Buzz and iGoogle, translating, breaking up, gossiping and playing, more and more people picked up the Reader habit. Here's a graph of Reader users over time (where "user" is defined as someone who has used Reader at least once a week):

      And as we found out this past April, Reader users sure do like to read lots of items. Here's another graph, this time of the number of items read per day.

      To all our users, new and old, thanks for making a great 5 years!


      Comet impact shockwave may have planted seeds of life on Earth

      13 Sep

      Stanley Miller performed some of the most famous origin of life experiments, showing that the chemicals thought to be present in the early Earth's atmosphere might react to form amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. But these experiments haven't aged well, through no fault of their own; other scientists have since revised their estimates of what was present in the early atmosphere, raising some doubts as to whether the Miller experiments are especially relevant. A paper released by Nature Chemistry neatly dodges this issue by showing that it might not matter what the Earth looked like—the shockwave of a comet impact can make biological materials regardless of the composition of the atmosphere it crashes into.

      In the years since Miller's experiments, we've been better able to image the composition of comets, and have even returned samples of some of the material shed by the comet Wild 2 as it approached the Sun. These have revealed a mixture of simple organic compounds like ammonia and ethanol, but nothing as complex as an amino acid, chemicals that form the building blocks of proteins.

      Read the rest of this article...

      Read the comments on this post


      Urchin 7 64-bit Released!

      13 Sep
      Do you need self-hosted analytics software? In some cases, particularly with intranets and other behind-the-firewall web services, running your own internal analytics application is the only way to access to usage data. In other cases, company or agency policy may prohibit the use of hosted analytics.

      But whatever the reason, if you need self-hosted web analytics software, you need Urchin.
      And like Google Analytics, it keeps getting better. Case in point: now available, a new version: Urchin 7. Urchin 7 represents the pinnacle of web analytics software, with a feature set only Google Analytics can compete with.

      Check out these new features:
      • 64-bit CPU support
      • Parallel log processing
      • 1000 domains/unlimited logs
      • 100% new UI
      • Advanced Segmentation
      • Event Tracking
      • Permalinks
      • API v. 2
      • Price: US$9995
      Please see the Urchin 7 Features page for more information, or download Urchin 7 today. Please note that Urchin 7 is sold exclusively through the global network of Urchin Certified Partners.

      Posted by Scott Crosby, Urchin Team

      If Google Maps Were Real: An Artist’s Vision [PICS]

      12 Sep

      The above image is one of several from Alejo Malia that depict a world in which all the elements of Google Maps — place markers, public transit symbols and even the yellow street view guy — are completely real and physical objects looming over our buildings, streets and heads.

      Malia is a Spanish illustrator and designer who, while relatively unknown, has a very strong social media presence. He’s on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Blogspot and Flickr.

      He uploaded this set of images (titled Google’s World) yesterday, but it’s not his first literal imagination of the technological world of the web; he also produced an image that incorporated Facebook’s “Like” button into a real photograph.

      Here’s the rest of the Google’s World set. Enjoy, and be sure and tweet your appreciation at Malia if you like his work.

      [Via Gizmodo]

      Reviews: Facebook, Flickr, Google Maps, Twitter, YouTube

      More About: alejo-malia, art, artist, flickr, Google, Google Maps, google's world, illustrations, Illustrator, pics

      For more Tech coverage:


      Adding Stroke to Web Text

      12 Sep

      Fonts on the web are essentially vector based graphics. That’s why you can display them at 12px or 120px and they remain crisp and relatively sharp-edged. Vector means that their shape is determined by points and mathematics to describe the shape, rather than actual pixel data. Because they are vector, it would make sense if we could do things that other vector programs (e.g. Adobe Illustrator) can do with vector text, like draw a stroke around the individual characters. Well, we can! At least in WebKit. Example:

      h1 {
         -webkit-text-stroke-width: 1px;
         -webkit-text-stroke-color: black;

      Or shorthand:

      h1 {
         -webkit-text-stroke: 1px black;

      Right away, I’m sure you are thinking: “Cool, but only WebKit supports, this, so if I set my text color to white and my background is white, the stroke makes it look cool in WebKit but disappears in other browsers!”

      WebKit has your back on that one, you can set the text color with another proprietary property, so you’re safe for all browsers:

      h1 {
         color: black;
         -webkit-text-fill-color: white; /* Will override color (regardless of order) */
         -webkit-text-stroke-width: 1px;
         -webkit-text-stroke-color: black;

      Shown here with @font-face font Anime Ace 2 by Nate Piekos:

      Properly stroked!

      Fallback to solid color. Shown here in Firefox


      We can take this a bit further by not relying on the WebKit proprietary entirely. We can use the text-shadow property (supported in Firefox, Opera, and IE 9 as well) and simulate a stroke. We’ll use four shadows, each 1px offset of black with no spread, one each to the top right, top left, bottom left, and bottom right. We’ll use remove the WebKit propreitary -webkit-text-fill-color in favor of color since we’re cross-browser compatible now. The only holdout would be IE8 and down, which of course you can use IE specific stylesheets to account for.

      h1 {
        color: white;
         -1px -1px 0 #000,
          1px -1px 0 #000,
          -1px 1px 0 #000,
           1px 1px 0 #000;

      This is a stroke using all text-shadow. Pretty close to just as good as a real stroke. The primary issue is that you can only get 1px of stroke this way. Any more, and you see gaps. Any more with WebKit text stroke and there is issues too though, so it’s kind of a horse apiece.


      Using both a stroke and a shadow can be a great effect. Let’s toss on a WebKit stroke, the all-around text-shadow stroke, as well as a deeper text-shadow stroke.

      h1 {
         -webkit-text-stroke: 1px black;
         color: white;
             3px 3px 0 #000,
           -1px -1px 0 #000,
            1px -1px 0 #000,
            -1px 1px 0 #000,
             1px 1px 0 #000;

      Lookin’ good


      If you are familiar with Adobe Illustrator, you may know that you can align a stroke on the inside of a shape, outside, or centered. That option looks like this in the palette:

      From left to right: center, inside, outside

      For reasons unbeknownst to me, text in Illustrator can only be set to center stroke alignment as well. Once you expand the text into regular vector paths though, all three options become available. Reminder from Sam Frysteen: add a new stroke in the appearance panel and move it below your text (basically mimics outside stroke alignment).

      From top to bottom: inside, centered, outside.

      Only outside text stroke alignment looks any good at all to me. It’s unfortunate, both for CSS and for Illustrator, that the unchangeable default is centered. The solution is just not to go too crazy with the thickness of your stroke border and things should be OK. Note: the text-shadow-only solution doesn’t have this problem, but also is unable to stroke any more than 1px.

      What we can’t do

      There are other things that vector based graphics programs can do with text. You can squish the letter horizontally / stretch them vertically. This type of text treatment is almost universally frowned upon, so no big loss that we can’t do that. You can also set type on an irregular line (like around a circle). It certainly would be cool to do this with web text. Perhaps we could set text to follow the border path of its parent element.

      p.circular {
        width: 200px;
        height: 200px;
        border-radius: 100px;
        /* NOT REAL */
        text-align: border-path;

      In Illustrator, we can also tell a stroke how to handle sharp corners: rounded, beveled, or mitered. These can have nice effects, are not possible on the web. However, the WebKit handling of corners is pretty nice at its default (whatever it is), and arguably nicer than any of the options in Illustrator.


      For the record, you can use any type of color value for the color of WebKit stroke (hex, rgba, hsla, keyword). That means transparent strokes if you want them, which indeed to “stack” in that if strokes overlap each other (common) they will be darker.

      As far as WebKit keyframe animation, the stroke color will animate but the stroke width will not.

      /* Only the color will change, not the width */
      @-webkit-keyframes colorchange {
      	0% {
      		-webkit-text-stroke: 10px red;
      	100% {
      		-webkit-text-stroke: 20px green;

      Demo & Download

      View Demo   Download Files


      Thanks to Hendra Susanto and Cory Simmons for sending in ideas and demos.