How reliable do we expect our social networks and tools to be now?

I was reading an interesting post by Patricio Robels this morning on econsultancy entitled: Can brands trust social media platforms? My first thought is not really but does it really matter all that much that they are not 100% reliable.

In the post Patricio comments:

Upon logging in to Twitter on Monday, I was greeted with the news that I was following nobody and had no followers.

So while this was a temporary glitch resolved within a few hours, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if all was indeed lost. Yet for a brand that has invested heavily in Twitter, logging in to see ‘0 following‘ and ‘0 followers‘ would probably be the source of confusion, worry and possibly Twitter fail imageeven anger.

The good news is that Twitter seems to have improved its reliability over the past year. The fail whale hasn’t retired, but it makes less frequent appearances. The problem with my account, however, which wasn’t isolated to just me, highlights an inconvenient truth: for all of Twitter’s improvements, it’s still not exactly what one might label ‘reliable‘.

I tweeted about the same issue yesterday as I noticed it as well – see the image on the right. I have to admit I don’t share Patricio’s optimism that Twitter has improved its reliability. I have noticed more outages in the last six months than in the previous two years and these are mainly down to the development of new features and the new look twitter which has been widely welcomed and that was highlighted in an a poll today by Mashable.

I think we have all become accustomed to things working all of the time but the fact is these social networks are complicated pieces of kit that have taken years to develop and you can take that from someone who has been developing a twitter management application for almost nine months. However, that said should we now expect our social tools to be reliable all of the time? And does this change if the service is free like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare or Doplr? Or do we all accept that web applications break from time to time and this is now the norm?

I have my own views but let me know what you think – thanks.

Cross posted on Tweasier.

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