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Saturday, May 1, 2010

When #Fail is #Win

Posted by: danish Ahmed 7:49 PM

When @dibyabttb tweeted asking about the origin of Twitter's Fail Whale icon, I knew my reply would require much more than 140 characters,so here is a post on this unusual phenomena of a graphic.

If you are even an average user of Web 2.0 services,you are more than likely to have come across the term Fail Whale which Twitter.com displays to indicate that the server is down due to user overload.
The graphic depicts a whale going down while a flock of tiny birds try to keep it up. Quite likely, Twitter server going down due to a very large number of users visiting the site at the same time, is what the designer was trying to represent. Of course, this was a design that was meant for the odd moments when there is a problem, after all it is an error message of sorts. However, Twitter turned out so unstable that thousands of users were shown the FailWhale graphic almost every day. ( Check out my blog entry on scalability issue in Twitter, posted more than 6 months back)

Normally, frequent outages at a site has a very detrimental effect on its traffic, disgruntled users start looking for alternate and more reliable services but Twitter is not like any other service/website, Twitterers preferred to hang out, waiting for the server to get back up rather than look for an alternative site.  Millions of users coming across the Fail Whale almost every day made it as popular as the more respectable Twitter bird icon. Mashable says, the Fail Whale graphic has become almost iconic in popular culture. Images related to the original one began to surface on the web. Yiying Lu (@yiyinglu), the designer of the original Fail Whale image has created a website to display various images related to it.

After the hugely unexpected popularity of the Fail Whale, it was only a matter of time that Lu come up with the opposite of the fail icon. But this time its not Twitter but San Fransisco based mobile entrepreneur Dave Larson and his fiancee Laura La Gassa for whom Yiying Lu has designed the new icon. After proposing marriage on Twitter, the couple asked Lu to design their wedding invitation, asking specifically for the opposite of Fail Whale icon. The result is Win Penguins, an image illustrating two penguins joined by a heart.
  
[image credit: Yiying Lu]

     

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