All Hail the Fail Whale!

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Twitter users hate it when the server is down. The popular social networking site is often over capacity, which can be like drug withdrawal for hardcore users. But the image you see when Twitter is down brings out the smiles. Everyone loves the Fail Whale!

(image: NathanaelB)

It's an inspired use of art. Take a bad situation (interruption of service) and lighten the mood with a whimsical distraction (fail whale). In this simple design, you can see an entire story. It's a whale of a tale! A huge whale who dreams of flying achieves his goal with the help of his many devoted friends. The smile on his face tells you it really is a dream come true for him. How can you not love that?

And there are lots of ways people show their love for Fail Whale.

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Fail Whale was designed by artist Yiying Lu. It wasn't a commissioned work, and Twitter didn't pay her directly or even link to her. She had uploaded it to iStockPhoto, where Twitter found it. It was originally called "Lift a Dreamer," and was created as an ecard for a friend. Yiying Lu gained recognition of her work through the fans of Fail Whale, and she benefits from the sale of merchandise at the official Fail Whale store at Zazzle. You can read the entire story at ReadWriteWeb.

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The Fail Whale Fan Club was the driving force behind the recognition of Yiying Li's art. There's also a Fail Whale Facebook Group, Flickr Group, and News Group. The fan club recently held a party, where they drank Fail Whale Pale Ale. Of course.

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The Fail Whale store has FW t-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, and other items. You can also purchase FW greeting cards and art prints.

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Fail Whale's girlfriend is Eve Whale, who declares her love for FW in this design by Yiyang Lu.

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Tributes to the design come from all over. Hilary Talbot made this Fail Whale Kinetic Sculpture.

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Flickr user emdot embroidered Fail Whale on at least two occasions.

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Apelad (Adam Koford) paid tribute to Fail Whale by including him in his Laugh Out Loud Cats comic series.

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Flickr user Timothy Greig used FW for a poster apologizing for inconvenience at a library in New Zealand.

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You know you've made it when you see your name (or image) in lights! This tribute to FW showed up on a Peggy (an LED pegboard).

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Flickr user SummerTX photographed this FW birthday cake. There are more cakes at the fan club site.

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Twitter itself is not above using the whimsical whale in unorthodox ways. When the staff moved to their new offices, a "redirect" sign was posted on the old office door. It wasn't long before they updated it with a slightly more positive message.

What could be next for Fail Whale? Maybe being loved is enough.

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August 19, 2008 - 2:15am
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