Oprah's Twitter debut may have left some techies less than elated -- the much-hyped news, after all, brought with it the prospect of countless soccer moms signing up and overloading an already flimsy network. In the end, though, it looks like Twitter may have been ready for the rush.
Oprah's Effect on Twitter
Twitter has yet to release any official data about usage in the hours following Oprah's entrance on Friday. Other companies, however, have begun looking at what actually happened with the site's performance.
Web performance measuring company AlertSite compared availability and average response time of the Twitter home page this past weekend with the rest of April. Its analysts found no significant difference in the site's responsiveness on Friday or Saturday compared to past days. The only post-Oprah slow-down came on Sunday, though that may have very well been the result of a typical technical issue.
So what to make of this? Either Oprah's tweeting didn't cause Twitter's traffic to jump much (at least within the first few days), or Twitter had prepared for a boost and was ready to absorb a wave of new activity.
The latter explanation has more support: Unscientific estimates put the number of new users signing up in the post-Oprah days anywhere from 500,000 to 1.2 million. Those figures come from looking at the progression of user ID numbers assigned to new accounts. Those numbers may or may not be completely sequential, but they can at least provide some sort of rough framework.
Put into perspective, 5,000 to 10,000 new Twitter accounts were created on a daily basis in late '08, according to a "State of the Twittersphere" report compiled last year. Twitter usage, of course, has exploded in the months since then, so that number is likely now higher. Still, half a million new accounts in a couple of days seems substantially greater than any typical two- to three-day norm, even taking the growth into account.
From the looks of it, then, Oprah may have given Twitter a boost in new users, but she didn't cause the massive fail-whaling some had feared. Did she single-handedly steal the site's "cool" factor? Hey, that's up to you to decide. Personally, I think Ashton probably did the damage long before Oprah arrived.