As Twitter went down for two days last week under a denial of service attack, the popular micro-publishing system got help from tech giant Google, co-founder “Biz” Stone told PBS. Twitter itself was not the target, but instead turned out to be collateral damage in an online attack against various social networking sites in an apparent attempt by pro-Russian hackers to silence a critic of Russia’s war with Georgia.
It’s not surprising that Twitter asked for help from Google, considering that both Stone and fellow co-founder Evan Williams worked at Google. The company’s talks with Google in the last year that have led to speculation Google will acquire the hot, messaging start-up that now is the pulse of the net.
Stone sat down this week with PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley in an interview to run Thursday, but revealed very little new information about the attack.
Stone described denial-of-service attacks as “pretty common on the internet,” but said that Twitter had spent its energy in 2008 dealing with its spectacular growth and keeping the system running. That was important since Twitter was getting a notorious reputation for constantly being broken.
“So what we have learned from this,” Stone said, “is that you have to tune your systems to handle this level of assault, this scale of assault…. We worked behind the scenes with folks from Google and other companies to figure out how to stop the attacks and how to better deal with them in the future.”
Smiiley followed up those revelations with the pressing question, “Where does the nickname ‘Biz’ come from?”
As for Twitter’s reliablity, the attack demonstrated how Twitter’s centralized structure is a weakness in the micropublishing ecosystem. For instance, if Yahoo’s e-mail servers go down, e-mail doesn’t stop working — just messaging for the people who use that provider.
Matt Katz is an active supporter for identi.ca, one of the companies working to transfer Twitter-like messaging into an open protocol, and described the difference. ”Distributed denial of service can only be solved with distributed delivery of service,” Katz told Epicenter.
You can catch a snippet of Stone’s interview today, and hear the whole thing on Thursday. There’s nothing else about the attacks, but you will learn the origin of Biz’s name, how Twitter will make money and how Twitter users are like a flock of birds.