Tumblr, Visa, Gawker, Twitter: What We Can Learn From Their Downfalls

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the first couple weeks of December, you’re well aware that the arrest of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange has triggered a series of events (or at the least, coincided with) which have all taken down major internet presences in a relatively short amount of time. Let’s take a closer look at some of the highest profile cases–and what we can learn from how they handled customer concerns in the wake of server outages and information leaks. After all, while these juggernauts might not exist specifically within the affiliate marketing universe, their actions make waves which are felt throughout the internet.

Company: Tumblr
Date of Incident: 12/5/10
What happened: Of the major online destinations to suffer technical difficulties, it appears that The Great Tumblr Blackout was the only one caused by an internal error. For about 24 hours, Tumblr’s loyal users fretted and lamented as their blogs remained entirely accessible. Everyone from team Tumblr remained mum, but by the following evening, service was being slowly restored.
Conclusion: Tumblr is the rare brand that can’t do any wrong and as we’ve previously stated. That’s largely because they very actively engage with their customers on a level that competitors like Google’s Blogger fail to. Which is why instead of defecting to a competitor, most Tumblr users weathered the power outage and embraced the service with open arms (and cookies!) when it returned. This is in spite of remaining tight-lipped during the 24 hour-long server outage.

Company: Visa, Mastercard, Amazon, Paypal
Date of Incident: 12/8/10
What happened: Because of their roles in the Wikileaks scandal, these three agencies found their websites pushed offline. While critical customer information was not leaked, customers were not able to log onto those websites.
Conclusion: This breach is especially unnerving for customers as these are all corporations they’ve entrusted critical financial information to–all who seemed unable to handle the ensuing PR disasters and dwindling consumer trust following the site hacks. Again, the bottom line here was communication. A lack thereof seemed like a really careless fumble on the parts of these corporations.

Company: Gawker
Date of Incident: 12/12/10
What happened: The website suddenly found the database of its commenters’ usernames and passwords compromised, along with much source code and other classified information. But more than that, Gawker takes the fumbles of the above sites and takes it a step further. According to The Atlantic, the blog’s back-end security was lax and hundreds of thousands of users could face damaged reputations as a result, including those working at government agencies.
Conclusion: While Tumblr et al above were largely dealing with PR issues above technical issues, Gawker’s allegedly lax security serves as a, “Duh!” moment for anyone who navigates the internet for a living. Financial information and source code remain the cornerstone of any internet marketer’s cutting edge. Although, publisher Nick Denton‘s presence in the flagship blog’s comments section also serves as a “Better late than never!” moment for those same people.

Company: Twitter
Date of Incident: 12/13/10
What happened: Following the leak of sensitive login information from Gawker, many passwords from that incident were then compared against their Twitter counterparts by matching up email addrseses and as a result, an acai berry spam attack spread throughout Twitter.
Conclusion: Twitter, unlike most internet giants, seems to walk away from security breaches far less burned. But with the internet becoming self-aware–in a post-Facebook age, no less–perhaps Twitter’s potential is finally reaching its cap.

What have we learned? Talk, talk, talk with your consumers, clients, and partners when your company is going through major crisis. Even if it means all you’re doing is finding one hundred ways to rehash the same spin control, going silent is quite possibly the worst thing you could do is stay silent while your brand is going up in flames. Periodic updates will remind your consumers that there are people working to fix the situation. And Gawker reminds us that when you live and breathe on the internet and your ROI is near zero without a broadband connection, you want to have top-of-the-line security.