The Twitpocalypse Tragedy

Twitter could fail, this time big time, for technical reasons. Mark Gibbs has written a play, to be exact, a tragedy, about this. He probably won't win a Tony.

It has been predicted that A Bad Thing is about to happen in the Twitterverse. This Bad Thing is being called the "Twitpocalypse", and if you believe some of the commentaries, we could have a world totally bereft of Twitter. They make it sound like a tragedy. Accordingly, here's my tragedic play in the classical Greek style (sort of) that I have titled "Twitpocalypse Now."

Act 1: Enter the chorus, stage right. The chorus consists of 12 people holding tragedy masks in front of their faces in the style of ancient Greek dramas.

Chorus (all together): Oh, woe, woe, woe! What is to become of us? Twitter may be about to go belly up and we're stuck here on stage; we'll be missing the biggest Fail Whale to date.

Enter Euripides Trousers and Digeratus, stage left. They walk to stage center.

Euripides (boisterously): What sayest thou, Digeratus? What is the nature of this calamity that someone tweeted to me is about to befall the microblogging world?

Digeratus (seriously): Forsooth, Euripides, it is a technical issue but it may be of great moment. Maybe Twitter will fail this time. I mean really fail – none of that "Fail Whale" crap.

Act 2: Chorus (running to stage left): We are doomed! Doomed! We might not be able to tell the world what we had for lunch!

Digeratus: Here's the thing … every message (verily, they are called "tweets", I kiddeth you not) handled by Twitter is given a unique number. This number is a signed 32-bit value which is variously called a word, a long, a doubleword, or a longword and the greatest signed value that can be represented in 32 bits is 2,147,483,647.

Chorus (running to stage right): We hate math. We must tweet about that when we get home.

Digeratus: Here's the thing: Twitter has become so incredibly popular that the number of tweets it has handled is nearing that maximum value. Doest thou know what happens when you add one to the maximum value that a signed doubleword can represent?

Euripides (smugly): You get zero?

Digeratus (even more smugly): No, my friend, you get −2,147,483,648! Remember that the value is signed so the top bit flippeth over! And then, as if that weren't confusing enough, the value will increase with each message sent until it reaches zero whence it will wend its way back to the maximum value. Again. Why, oh why, didn't they use an int64!

Act 3: Chorus (holding their heads): Our brains hurt. Could you shorten that to 140 characters or less?

Digeratus: The problem is about whether Twitter can handle this flipping from a maximum positive value to maximum (or should that be "minimum"?) negative one? Even if it can, will Tweetdeck still work? Will Tweetr? Will Twitterific? Can any of those applications and services deal with such devilish torment? We knoweth not!

Euripides: So tell me, when, exactly, will this catastrophe happen?

Digeratus: According to tweets are being generated at a rate of about 197 per second so they guess that the Big Neg will happen on June 13t at about 08:54:00 AM GMT (or thereabouts).

Chorus (running to stage left, howling in anguish): No ****! We will be lost! We might have to watch YouTube!

Digeratus: Then again, it might be like Y2K and nothing much will happen. Another big "So What?".

Act 4: Euripides: I'm confused. If this does actually happen will it really be a catastrophe? Will anyone lose money? Will anyone die?

Digeratus: Well, no. Not really. Mayhaps the Internet will become a void without social interaction and maybe a million people won't be able to tell each other that they have dental appointments, that they hate the rain, and that the dog threw up on the carpet, but that's about it. Or, mayhaps, nothing at all will happen as I suggested.

Chorus (crestfallen): Oh. Really? That's it? Can we go home now? “American Idol” is about to start.

Exit all, hurriedly, stage coach.

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