Did Twitter's Outage Cost the Economy Billions?

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The idea that a few-hour Twitter outage could have more than a billion-dollar effect on the economy sounds preposterous at first, but some simple math suggests that might be just the case.

Twitter went down at approximately 11:30 a.m. EST on Thursday and was out for anywhere from one to two hours for most users. In addition to giving users infinite reasons to complain and find other ways to entertain themselves, the outage also could have cost the economy billions, according to iPhone Einstein.

That conclusion was reached by using an estimate by Constellation Research analyst Ray Wang. Wang estimated that the economy loses as much as $25 million per minute of Twitter outage. He reached that number by these assumptions:

1. Twitter has 500 million users

2. 100 million are business users

3. Average salary of $125,000 over 124,800 minutes

4.  An outage means a loss of $1/person/minute

5.   25 percent of the 100 million business users are doing work during the outage

That means, according to those estimates, the economy lost anywhere from $1.5 billion to $3 billion during the outage. The estimate, iPhone Einstein admits, might be too high, in part because it doesn't seem to fully factor in productivity lost due to Twitter, but says "massive communication utility outages certainly result in real economic loss -- even if it's not $25 million a minute."

Twitter attributed the outage to a failure of "two parallel systems at nearly the same time."

Earlier in the day Google's Google Talk feature -- more commonly known as Gchat -- was down for more than four hours. The instant messaging platform's outages also could have had an impact on the economy, based on its popularity, but not nearly as high as Twitter's supposed effect.

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