When Things Break: How Flickr Communicated An Outage

Broken Keyboard by Alford Charlie

Fact of life: things break. Web services rely on power grids, complicated hardware, platters of material spinning at thousands of revolutions per minute, and that’s before the human element is factored in. Come to think of it, it’s rather impressive that the whole thing is so reliable <superstitious>touches wood</superstitious>.

What defines an organisation is how they handle themselves when things go wrong. Do they ignore their customers? Deny there’s a problem? Maintain a status page with red/amber/green icons? Communicate status via Twitter.

Here’s how Flickr handled an outage this morning (BST), have to hand it to them, it’s absolute class. A perfect balance of information and light-heartedness. I can forgive them the fact that some urgent updates to the conference site I’m working on will have to wait a few minutes.

Here’s what greets you on the homepage:

flickr homepage outage message

Mysterious, but a quick look at their blog reveals:

flickr outage blog post

and checking the @flickr twitter stream:

flickr outage twitter stream

Yes, it’s still a bit annoying that the service is down, but I do love their approach. If you’re on a tighter deadline, it’s probably more irritating, but I’m a big fan of whoever is putting together their copy. Very nice work indeed.


And here’s the results of the pics that flickr users uploaded whilst waiting for the site to come back up, flickr asked users to tag photos FlickrMassageOct2011.

Maybe I’m being naive, but I can’t help thinking that if Facebook faced a similar outage, the response wouldn’t be quite so positive. Flickr has an awful of goodwill despite Yahoo’s best efforts to ignore the service.

Photo (c) Alford Charlie.

Also published on Medium.


Inquisitive. Hopeful. Jovial. Cantankerous. Digital marketer. Event organiser. Long-time fan of tech, collaboration and innovation. Exploring digital, social, business, technology, society, psychology & startups. Founder Chinwag, Digital Mission, Pitch NYC, ChinwagPsych. Former Exec Dir, Social Media Week London. More short stuff @toodlepip on Twitter.

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