People across much of the planet briefly experienced problems accessing Twitter overnight, a day before the 2012 Olympic Games are expected to cause a spike in use of the micro-blogging site.
The San Francisco-based company acknowledged the problem, saying in a statement that its engineers were "currently working to resolve the issue", although it didn't go into further detail. It is the second time in just over a month that the site has been hit by problems.
Visitors to the site were greeted with a half-formed message saying that "Twitter is currently down." The fields where a reason for the outage and a deadline for restoring service were apparently meant to go were filled with computer code.
Sluggishness or outages were reported for more than an hour in countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Some users were able to post updates through their phones or third-party applications. Tweets about the Olympic torch, which was wending its way through central London, still poured in, albeit far more slowly than earlier in the day.
Mike Lizun of Swedish performance monitoring company Apica said the outage appeared at 11.23 am EDT. He said Twitter was "completely down" for about 40 minutes before briefly recovering and becoming unavailable again about 12.15pm EDT.
Service appeared to be getting back to normal earlier today (NZT), to the relief of many self-proclaimed "Twitter refugees" who'd flooded Facebook with complaints about the service. As usual following outages, "WhileTwitterWasDown" was one of the most-talked about topics on Twitter in the United States. Users cracked jokes about their regained productivity as a result of the downtime - or going outside to get some sunshine.
Lizun said that some still seemed to be having problems.
"Twitter doesn't appear to be completely out of the woods just yet," he said.
Twitter was once notorious for its down times, but has since improved its performance. Still, the sheer popularity of the site - and its heavy use by up-to-the-second journalists - mean that even modest outages quickly become news. In June, Twitter experienced problems that lasted about two hours. The company blamed a technical glitch.
The latest breakdown comes only hours before the Olympics are expected to bring an unprecedented surge of activity by sports fans on Twitter, among other social networking sites. At the recent European Championship final, users fired off more than 15,000 tweets per second, setting a sports-related record for the site.
Social media users were already complaining about an earlier outage that affected Google's chatting services. The Mountain View, California-based company said Thursday morning that the majority of users were seeing error messages and unable to use its Google Talk service. The issues were resolved five hours later.