I've written a lot about Twitter over the past few weeks - much of my writing is about community, trends, and general usage. Today, much of the buzz is around - as Michael Arrington terrificly puts it - Twitter's "minor period of uptime." Webware goes even further by asking Twitter to close shop until their issues are fixed: "A proposal for Twitter: Shut it Down."
I used to love Twitter. But the site's pogo status--it's up! it's down! it's up again!--is driving me away. I've removed the Twitter sidebar from the Webware home page, and I've stopped religiously updating it. Because I figure its users, and my followers, are learning to not trust it, to not bother visiting the site since it's likely to be down when they visit. Chances are fewer people are reading my Twitter posts now than a month ago.
I believe Twitter is bleeding users. Every time Twitter users go to Twitter.com or to their Twitter app and they see the "Fail Whale," an error message, or just a non-responsive site, they're that much less likely to come back the next time. Instead, they're going to FriendFeed, Jaiku, Pownce, or even the whacked-out Plurk.
I understand users' frustrations, but Twitter would be nuts to shut down. Doing so would kill their business and be a far tougher pill for the devout Twitter-community to swallow than the (increasingly regular) bouts of downtime (and after all, the community's outrage is a sign that they value the product).
... That said, I 100% agree that it's a major problem - from both a user and a business perspective.
Twitter's struggle with downtime has affected more than just community - it's affecting the product. Twitter hasn't introduced any new functionality (and there are so many products aching to be launched!) because of the ops issues.
Rather than shut it down, Twitter needs to continue being transparent with their struggles and build an all-star team. We saw this issue with Friendster - and that turned out really poorly. Friendster's inability to scale enabled a slew of competitors to pass them, steal their communities, build big brands, and get very rich. Twitter can learn a lot from that famous web 1.0 story as there are numerous players lurking behind... the most imposing at the moment is FriendFeed (who is chomping at the bit).
And as Twitter struggles to stay up - FriendFeed (and others) are innovating, releasing new products and trying to convert Twitter's users.