- A sudden, catastrophic failure of Twitter is unlikely, insiders say.
- Yet they expect a stream of problems to pile up to the point where it can no longer function.
- With so few employees left to share critical work, “Twitter is done,” said one former employee.
Twitter’s technical prowess is being put to the test under Elon Musk’s leadership, leading insiders and pundits to agree that a site outage is possible, even likely, in the near future.
Sites like Twitter don’t just go into the dark when there are issues that can’t be resolved quickly or at all. But with more users than ever before and drastically fewer employees thanks to the combination of a mass layoff and a mass layoff just three weeks into Musk’s ownership, serious technical issues appear to be brewing.
Entire teams within Twitter have effectively shut down as Musk laid off about 3,500 people earlier this month and an estimated 2,000 who resigned Thursday in response to the billionaire’s ultimatum demanding “extremely hardcore” work.
Still, a sudden, catastrophic failure for Twitter is “unlikely,” said a former Twitter executive with knowledge of its technical systems. Even if Twitter lost all employees, the site would survive online, at least for a while, because it works largely through remote commands that are set up to continue independently.
“The more likely scenario is that there is a major break in functionality for some users,” the former director said. Features such as posting or retweeting may falter or stop working by running into an unexpected problem, the director noted.
“It would be discovered late, and it would be unclear what is causing the problem and unclear how to fix it if you don’t have any of the people who can fix it,” said the director.
Another likely scenario is that Twitter won’t see any major outages, but minor issues or glitches will pile up, the former executive said. Maybe notifications stop working or tweets appear hours late in the feed. Even minor issues will take too long to resolve given how many people Twitter has right now.
“It normally wouldn’t be difficult to reverse these things,” said the former director. “But now it will take days or weeks to really find out.”
Critical maintenance of data and servers, which are essential to avoiding such problems, are being canceled because not enough people are available to handle the workload, said a former employee with knowledge of Twitter’s systems.
“We already had a lot on our plate before he came in,” the person said, referring to Musk. “Now there is absolutely no way to handle all that. Twitter is done.”
This person predicted that soon “something critical breaks every few days” on Twitter, piling up until the problems can no longer be solved. Users then leave a site that is effectively broken.
Engineering and technical experts have been posting on Twitter about seemingly minor things that are likely to go wrong in the coming weeks. Only one employee apply “bad code”. to a network can be harmful if no one is available to fix it quickly. A security threat can arise without anyone discovering it in time or knowing how to fix it.
A current Twitter engineer said Thursday that he and other remaining colleagues realized they now have to “maintain Twitter and learn everything.”
That may not even be possible, said a former employee, given the loss of knowledge about Twitter’s operations and code base.
“You can’t fire us all and expect people to come in next Monday and magically fix everything,” said that worker.
Musk spent part of Thursday calling engineers who refused to sign up for Twitter 2.0 to try and get them to stay, Insider reported. In addition to the loss of engineers, finances and accounting have eroded, as Insider reported, along with Twitter’s information security organization, which handles company and user data, two people familiar with the company said.
In a sudden attempt to “better understand” Twitter’s technology, Musk sent emails early Friday morning asking that “anyone” who left Twitter with software coding experience meet him in person.
“He believes he can understand the Twitter stack all by himself in one day,” said a former employee. “I hope someone tells him how ridiculous that is.”
Are you a Twitter employee or anyone else with insight to share? Please contact Kali Hays at [email protected], using the secure messaging app Signal at 949-280-0267, or via Twitter DM at @hayskali. Reach out with a non-work device.