I've got a fixed width layout site much like SE and Twitter and it personally bugs me when my "short" pages don't reach the bottom of the page. I've been wondering if this is a purely stylistic issue or if any research or standards exist for this situation. It seems to me that it would keep all elements at the greatest level of spacial consistency, and I have noticed that big sites like Twitter do tend to fill all vertical real estate with "container" rather than "padding".
Here's an example on a 1280x1024 monitor of a very empty page on the site. As you can see there is a great deal of visible padding. On the other hand a great deal of whitespace would replace it with a "fixed" height solution.
At the moment the footer of the page is unused (it's an intranet site and I guess the client opted against/forgot even simple copyright information at the bottom) so I figured this is less important in this case, but I have noticed most "modern" sites do this so I was wondering if there's formal research/debate on the matter. I would like to make the change but I hate to change the user interface without a solid reason, as I did not create the original design.