Twitter users were left with idle thumbs Thursday after the popular microblogging service went down around noon ETand then remained spotty throughout the day.

The main website and third-party applications that rely on Twitter feeds were affected by the outage. The mobile site seemed less affected but was still slow for much of the day.  

The company sent a Tweet at 3:17 p.m. ET saying the outage had been caused by a "cascaded bug in one of our infrastructure components" —  that is, a bug that propagates through a system and is not confined to a particular piece of software.

Mashable.com reported that it was the longest outage since an hour-long outage in October 2011.

The service came back up for short periods of time throughout the day only to crash again.

Many users turned to Facebook and other social media sites to vent about the outage and keep each other abreast of the latest updates on service.

Twitter has about 140 million users worldwide who send out around 340 million tweets per day, according to its own statistics

Majority of Twitter users not active

May 2012 study by the Pew Research Center in the U.S. found about 15 per cent of U.S. adults who use the internet use Twitter, and about eight per cent do so every day.

U.S. has the most Twitter users of any country, followed by Brazil, Japan and the U.K. Canada ranks 10th in number of Twitter accounts, according to a recent survey by Semiocast.  

A high number of users doesn't necessarily mean that people in those countries are the most active tweeters. The Semiocast survey found that the Netherlands had the most active users, although it ranked 17th in terms of number of accounts.

The same study — and others — have found that the majority of Twitter account holders don't actively use the service or merely retweet content rather than generating it.

In the three-month period from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, 2011, about 70 per cent of accounts remained dormant, the Semiocast survey found.

The most widely read Tweets are those generated by a relatively small number of celebrities and media outlets, a study by Yahoo Research  found last year. The five most popular Twitter feeds are those of pop singers Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Britney Spears, according to Twitter's statistics.