The Story of the Twitter Fail Whale
July 8, 2009 9:56 PM   Subscribe

The Twitter Fail Whale, designed by Yiying Lu, became an internet phenomenon a year ago when Twitter became so unstable that the image popped up to hundreds of thousands of users on an almost daily basis. As a result of this exposure, games were created and many a mashup was made up. Lu has created a site with all of the Fail Whale related images she could find (Google cache). It’s an amazing (and huge) collection containing tributes, to statues, to cakes and beer labels.
posted by Effigy2000 (20 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A few not on that page here: Fail Whale Real-time Image Stream
posted by BoatMeme at 10:28 PM on July 8, 2009

why is it cute and lovable when that site goes down completely all the time but when the one I work on has any issue whatsoever it is the source of great internet scorn? *grumble*
posted by flaterik at 11:33 PM on July 8, 2009

Because Twitter is the biggest joke on the internet? (Just a guess)
posted by wendell at 11:53 PM on July 8, 2009

The Failwhale is like a jrun joke around here (which used to be rather popular) -- it's not because it sucks or people hate the site, it's because they like the site so much that they use it as an inside joke that's half endearing and half out of frustration when the thing you love isn't online the moment you want to use it, but it's worth waiting for it to come back online.

(also, Yiying Lu sent me a nice email the day Fuelly launched and people started noticing the 404 page)
posted by mathowie at 12:07 AM on July 9, 2009

Because Twitter is the biggest joke on the internet? (Just a guess)

Says the man who averages 200 tweets a day. (Just a guess)
posted by eyeballkid at 1:20 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, yeah... when a few birds net a whale it's all cute and everything, but a few Japanese fishermen do it and suddenly it's a crime against nature.

That whale better be going to research, birdies.
posted by qvantamon at 1:23 AM on July 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

twitter? i thought that was over.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:16 AM on July 9, 2009

Twitter just jumped the whale.
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:52 AM on July 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm a fan.

I would argue that the Fail Whale is partly (largely?) responsible for Twitter's astonishing success. When Twitter was having its major growing pains last year, if users had just gotten an ugly, "bonk!" message I don't think it could have retained so many users. But to have this great illustration - simple, stylish, imaginative, cute - pop up, almost like a reward, AND to have the good fortune for a catchy, funny name to be attached to this almost immediately, a name that is descriptive, sing-song, and referential ("fail" having already made the memetic internet rounds)? The troubles went from being a faceless annoyance to being a quirky new friend.

You can't buy, or plan that shit.

Self link! I am responsible for one of the tributes on that page - I made a Fail Whale Pale Ale label design for a contest that was, at least partially, run by (MeFi's own) FierceCupcake. Sadly the person running the contest had some sort of catastrophic computer malfunction that killed the contest.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:23 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Actually, thanks for the credit, dirtdirt, but it was really my partner likesuchasand's inspiration. I was just plugging it wherever I could. She and I made up a song about "Fail Whale Pale Ale" one morning and then she tweeted it and the rest is very small history.

And I think you've hit the nail on the head as far as the Fail Whale being in the right place at the right time. It could have gone wrong but it went Very Right.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:29 AM on July 9, 2009

Twitter? I barely know her!

Haha, oh man, first time you've seen that joke!
posted by shakespeherian at 7:48 AM on July 9, 2009

despite it being cute, i actually was frustrated by the fail whale. I don't have a twitter but i will hijack my girlfriends for humorous exploits and one time i got the "fail whale" and i thought it was too cute to be serious.

It's the shmarmy charm that twitter has and that twitter users love. It's like swirls and birds on a twee t-shirt.

If anyone hasn't made Fail Whale pale ale i would be more than happy to try and come up with a modified pale ale.
posted by djduckie at 8:06 AM on July 9, 2009

I'm glad to see the artist be such a good sport about this. Seems smart, she's gotten a lot of exposure. I really like her graphic design style.
posted by Nelson at 8:16 AM on July 9, 2009

Oh and see also: her Dog Poo Project (Part 2).
posted by Nelson at 8:17 AM on July 9, 2009

The Pale Ale contest, like everything on Earth, has MetaFilter ties.
posted by spamguy at 8:17 AM on July 9, 2009

Not to derail the discussion too much, but why does Twitter fall over so often? It's not exactly the most complicated concept in the world, and most of its advanced features are handled by third parties (TwitPic, Twitlonger, etc). Is it simply a case of huge volume?
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 8:23 AM on July 9, 2009

I shut my brain off and totally misunderstood that they were making it themselves.

In retrospect i should have known.
posted by djduckie at 8:35 AM on July 9, 2009

I can't exactly put my finger on why, but things like this make me want to move into a cave.
posted by wcfields at 9:50 AM on July 9, 2009

A tattoo? Aw, c'mon! I'm gonna have to not join Twitter like 50 times to make up for that shit!
posted by orme at 9:52 AM on July 9, 2009

Not to derail the discussion too much, but why does Twitter fall over so often?

Ruby on rails.

Scale it does not.
posted by flaterik at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2009

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