Great technology brands — Google (search), Prius, iPod, — have one thing in common: they always work. Sometimes in the quest for best features, snazziest design, lowest price, biggest buzz, etc., technology companies lose sight of one of the most important — if not the most important — driver of customer loyalty: reliability.

Anyone who attempted to visit Publishing 2.0 yesterday afternoon found, well, nothing. My web hosting service, Apollo Hosting, experienced some kind catastrophic meltdown. I know there’s been a lot of that going around, but in the case of the Apollo, this was the last straw for me. Why? Because it wasn’t the first time it happened. Apollo Hosting has failed my reliability test — I’m currently in the process of moving Publishing 2.0 to another hosting service. I don’t know for sure whether the new host will be more reliable, but so far their customer service has been great.

It’s not that I expect my hosting service to be without flaw, but after this last outage, I just lost faith, and Apollo gave me no reason to keep the faith. Part of the problem I had with Apollo Hosting is that their tech support people never seemed to understand why I was so upset when my site went down — even a simple apology would have gone a long way. No technology is infallible — the key to customer loyalty is to take it VERY seriously when things don’t work.

Another service that seems blind to the pitfalls of things not working is Technorati — many bloggers have complained about the Technoarti’s failure to update link counts in a timely fashion. And in Technorati’s defense, they are dealing with an IMMENSE volume of data. But you’d think that they would have used the recent relaunch of the site to fix some of these problems once and for all.

Alas, here’s what I’ve found over the last several days:

Technorati Sucks 4

Technorati Sucks 3

Technorati Sucks 1

Technorati Sucks 2

Again, I know it’s a huge amount of data, but how many YEARS is it going to take to get it right? If I were Technorati, I’d make data accuracy a top priority.

But why does it matter, you may ask. Technorati is clearly aiming at a mass audience, so why does it matter if they screw up bloggers’ ego stats? The average user won’t ever notice.

Well, one reason is that when blog readers see bloggers badmouthing Technorati, they may be more likely to check out Sphere or other new options.

And it’s just bad form. It’s okay to have hiccups and blips, but systematic suckiness is a great way to destroy a brand.

Just ask Microsoft, the undisputed king of sucky technology — I cannot tell you how many four letter words I hurl at Microsoft on a near-daily basis. I expect it not to work. And if professional circumstances ever allow me to switch to Apple, I will do so in a heartbeat.

David Sifry seems to understand the bucking bronco he’s riding with Technorati’s technical problems:

Part of this work is also to make things simpler and more stable, so that we can understand and respond to all of your support requests. Hopefully, it’ll also reduce the confusion! I know that some folks have sent in support tickets that we haven’t answered. If you’re in that camp, I’m sorry. I hope that with the back-end and front-end changes, you’ll find Technorati more usable and easier to understand. Give us another try.

For his sake, I hope they can FINALLY get it right.

MySpace is playing a similar risky game with their technical suckiness — when a search for “MySpace technical problems” turns up thousands of results, it’s clear that they are depending on users’ expecting less from technology, not more.

The explosion of web-based technology is undoubtedly a huge opportunity — but it is also a huge pitfall. Beta is fine, and working out the kinks is fine — but at some point, it has to just work.
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UPDATE
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Just came across this from Data Mining (via CrunchNotes):

Technorati #1 on Technorati

I’ve just written a long post titled ‘Technorati: None – None More Broken’ (title for Spinal Tap fans). I couldn’t bear to post it

There are hundreds of posts like this out there, with more everyday.