At one time, Twitter’s most familiar icon wasn’t its perky little bluebird. It was the Fail Whale, the image that Twitter displayed when the service was down or disrupted. 

The Tale Of The Whale

The Whale was the work of artist Yiying Lu, whose now-iconic image was picked up by Twitter in 2007 to jokingly commemorate the site’s accumulated days of outages. Since then, the image of a whale borne aloft by several tiny birds has  inspired its own Twitter fan club and Facebook page, along with an online repository of dozens of illustrations.

But now that Twitter’s online performance has dramatically improved, there’s a new Twitter icon that you probably will never see: the Success Loch Ness.

On the evening of April 8, following the Shorty Awards, Lu and other employees from Twitter were hanging out at The Pony Bar in New York City, when Tom Spano, the events coordinator at Twitter, asked Lu, “Since Twitter’s now became more and more stable, there’s less chance for folks to see your image. How about something opposite from the Fail Whale? Success Whale?”

The proposal was shouted down, Lu describes on her blog, because it didn’t rhyme. Instead, Lee Semel, the founder of the Shorty Awards, suggested the Success Loch Ness – named after the infamous Loch Ness Monster, often called Nessie. And the rest, as Lu suggests, is history.

Twitter Gets Its Act Together

Go back far enough in Pingdom’s logs of Twitter’s uptime, and you’ll find what could be the nadir for the site: an abysmal 92% uptime in March 2007, equivalent to being down more than two days in that month alone – just after Twitter hit the big time at South by SouthWest (SXSW). For the next few months, Twitter’s uptime averaged about 98% – better, but still not great. In Dec. 2007, Twitter moved to a new data center, which helped significantly. Twitter still suffered occasional outages during the next few years, including slowdowns when Michael Jackson died in 2009, a denial-of-service attack that same year and more slowdowns during the 2010 World Cup.

But over time, Twitter slowly improved its performance to the point where the service now reports stellar uptime results. In seven out of the last twelve months, for example, Pingdom credited Twitter with a perfect 100% uptime.

All that has put Twitter in a celebratory mood.

Here’s Twitter’s Tom Spano holding both the original Fail Whale and the new Success Loch Ness:

And Lu’s own Vine showing the Success Loch Ness rearing its head:

Too Bad “Success Loch Ness” Doesn’t Make Any Sense

It’s great that Twitter has been able to move beyond the Fail Whale, but while its replacement may be far more positive, the new creature has its own grammatical, style and content issues. Loch Ness is a lake, after all. The Loch Ness Monster, if it exists, lives in the lake. More to the point, Success Loch Ness just doesn’t trip off the tongue with quite the same ease. 

Image courtesy of Yiying Lu.