Twitter CEO promises download of tweet history by end of year

27 Nov 2012

During a talk at his former university, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo compared Twitter to the agora of ancient Greece, asserted that the 140-character limit is here to stay, and promised that users will soon be able to download their entire tweet archive – once the software engineers have worked it out.

Costolo was invited to an event at the University of Michigan to talk about the power of Twitter as a communication tool. During a short Q&A session that followed, he was asked if and when users would be able to download their entire backlog of tweets.

In his answer, Costolo referred to the sheer volume of information Twitter users are producing. “During the night of the presidential election, there was a point at which we were serving 1.3m timelines,” he explained. “Keep in mind that’s every second 1.3m timelines going out that are threading together every single tweet that’s coming in from around the world at 15,000 tweets per second, and organising them in chronological order. So that architecture is really, really, really, really well-suited to real-time search and real-time distribution. It’s really horribly suited to archive search and archive distribution.”

Since a search on Twitter’s entire database for a user’s tweet history would slow down its real-time distribution, the service is working on developing a separate archival system instead. “We’re in the process of doing that now,” said Costolo, who then went on to promise that this service would be available by the end of the year, allowing users to download their entire tweet history – despite the fact Twitter’s software engineers are already unhappy with him for guaranteeing delivery of this feature in the past.

“They can keep being mad at me,” he jested, but later added, “I caveat this with [the fact that] the engineers who are actually doing the work don’t necessarily agree that they’ll be done by the end of the year, but we’ll just keep having that argument and we’ll see where we end up year-end.”

The talk took place on 16 November and a video is now available via the Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy’s online video library.

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic