Refresher course: What to do when Twitter is down

With the microblogging service suffering from a denial-of-service attack Thursday, you might need a refresher on what to do when it's down. We have you covered.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
4 min read

Twitter tanked Thursday. The outage, caused by a targeted denial-of-service attack, had ripple effects continuing into the evening. I wasn't able to post a tweet with a link in it.

I was reminded of an era not long ago, when it was more newsworthy that Twitter was up. In an homage to those less-stable days, I thought I'd outline some of the better alternatives we can take advantage of during those moments Twitter isn't cooperating.

Other options

FriendFeed is the first place to start when Twitter is down. Although it's designed to track updates to all your social networks, it's a fine communication platform itself. The site will let you chat it up about important topics, follow other friends' many social-networking updates, and more. It's an ideal alternative to Twitter.

FriendFeed is a fine alternative to Twitter. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

But if you're looking for something a little more Twitter-like, there are several options. You can try out Plurk. It's a nice platform, but beware that there are very few users on the site. If people are updating their friends about their lives, they're not doing it on Plurk.

That said, it does provide a really neat timeline display and a unique way to spread your feelings. Instead of giving you full control over your message, it asks you to use one of several keywords, including love, like, wishes, hates, gives, and more. It's not bad.

Plurk has a unique layout. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

If you want a straight Twitter clone with some open-source flavor, Identica is for you. Found at Identi.ca, the site lets you input a message in 140 or fewer characters. You can see what the community is saying by sifting through the timeline. It's a neat service, but there's one problem: its community is small. You won't find many friends on the site.

Identica is more or less a Twitter clone with some extra features. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

If you're looking to only communicate with your Twitter friends, it seems that a service like TweetLater is what you really need. TweetLater allows you to tweet until your heart is content even when Twitter is down. It populates your Twitter stream with all your TweetLater updates when Twitter goes back up.

You can also use TweetLater to schedule tweets to go live on your stream at a desired time. On Thursday, TweetLater shut down some of its features to help Twitter fend off the denial-of-service attack. That was a bummer. But it still came in handy for those who wanted to keep tweeting and not miss a moment when Twitter came back up.

As its name indicates, TweetLater lets you tweet later. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

And then, of course, there's Facebook. You can always just chat with your friends on that social network, though it, too, is susceptible to similar outages (and was on Thursday). You can input status updates, chat with friends on its instant-messaging platform, share links, and check out photos. It's a similar and, arguably, more robust offering than Twitter. It's a great communication platform. It should solve all your troubles when Twitter is down.

Facebook status updates present another Twitter alternative. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Other distractions

If you've decided that microblogging without Twitter just doesn't fit the bill, you have some other options.

Why not play some games on AddictingGames? The site features thousands on online games with which you should be happy. From the helicopter game (a favorite of mine) to old classics like checkers and chess, the site has it all. I sometimes find myself spending hours on the site. It's also where I spent some of my time Thursday when Twitter was down.

AddictingGames will keep you distracted. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

If you're really annoyed that Twitter is down, visit WhenTwitterIsDown. The site is simple: it sports a single phrase that describes what might be happening because of the outage. Read one, click on it, and read the next ideas. It's a good way to waste your day. Some of the examples on the site are quite funny too.

When Twitter is Down
When Twitter is Down tells you what's going on--kinda. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Chart an offline course

Even better, why not get all your Twitter friends to meet up with you when you're offline? Organizing a Tweetup is a great way to get people together. And there some tools that will help you do it.

I like Twitvite. The site first asks for your username. From there, you can decide where to have your Tweetup, set your date and time, and send it off to your Twitter followers. They can respond by clicking on the Twitvite link, letting you know if they can make it. It's a neat tool.

Twitvite will help you organize a Tweetup. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

If you don't want to organize your own Tweetup, but you still want to party, Tweetups.org is the site for you. It lists all the Tweetups that have been organized by its users. Right now, it has more than 6,300 members in 48 cities and five countries. There are several Tweetups scheduled for the next few months. If one is in your town, Tweetups.org is the place to find out.

Tweetups.org helps you find Tweetups around town. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

My top 3

If you're looking to find the top activities to engage in when Twitter is down, I've listed my favorites.

1. Facebook: It's huge. Its community is lively. And it has several tools we all care about.

2. FriendFeed: It's like Twitter, but better.

3. AddictingGames: AddictingGames lives up to its name. Definitely check it out.