The rapid-fire spread of a close-up photo of the US Airways plane that crashed in the Hudson River Thursday resulted in the service that hosted the picture going down.
TwitPic, an application that allows users to take pictures from their mobile phones and append them to Twitter posts, went down after at least 7,000 people attempted to view the photo of the airplane taken from a commuter ferry by Sarasota, Fla., resident Janis Krums.
According to Noah Everett, the founder of TwitPic, who still runs the service by himself, after the photo of the plane was re-tweeted by a large number of people and then picked up by several news sites, including Silicon Alley Insider, the resulting traffic was too much for the site's servers.
Everett called it a "snowball effect."
In fact, Everett said this wasn't the first time someone had used TwitPic to post a photo of an airplane accident. He explained that a passenger on a Continental Airlines plane that went off the runway in Denver in December used the service to post a photo. But that time, the service was able to stay up.
Perhaps because of the national interest in an airplane accident taking place in direct view of Manhattan, the traffic produced by Krums' photo was higher than in the case of the Denver accident, Everett suggested.
And while the circumstances of Thursday's accident were unfortunate--though, miraculously, no one died in the crash--Everett admitted that the fact that Krums' photo got so much attention was validation of the utility of TwitPic.
"We haven't gotten so much press coverage before," Everett said.
"It's shocking, and it's a good feeling--though (also) not a good feeling because it's bad news," Everett said.
He also said that he's got additional servers that are soon going to be in place.
"In a month's time (something like) this will not affect us anymore," he explained. "We're working to be able to handle our growth, but this is definitely a wake-up call showing the power of breaking news and TwitPic."
Everett said that there had been about 7,000 views of the picture before the site went down, and that there were about 500 additional requests to view it every 15 or 20 seconds.
He also said that while he couldn't be immediately sure, it was likely that Krums had used an Apple iPhone to take the picture, given that it was 600x800 pixels, the average size of an iPhone picture.
By 2:35 p.m. Pacific, about two hours after the photo was taken, TwitPic was back up.
Everett said, "I hope it stays up. I'll be working on this through the night."