- A sudden, catastrophic Twitter failure is unlikely, insiders say.
- However, they expect a series of problems to accumulate to the point where it can no longer work.
- With so few employees left to share critical work, “Twitter is done,” said one former employee.
Twitter’s technical strength is being tested under Elon Musk’s leadership, leaving pundits and pundits to agree that the site’s collapse is possible, even probable, in the near future.
Sites like Twitter don’t just go dark in the face of problems that can’t be fixed quickly – or at all. However, with more users than ever and drastically fewer employees, thanks to the combination of a mass layoff and a mass resignation just three weeks into Musk’s ownership, serious technical problems seem to be brewing.
Entire teams at Twitter have been effectively shut down by Musk laying off about 3,500 people earlier this month and about 2,000 people who quit Thursday in response to the billionaire’s ultimatum that required “extremely hard” work.
But a sudden, catastrophic failure for Twitter is “unlikely,” said a former Twitter executive with knowledge of its technical systems. Even if Twitter were to lose all of its employees, the site would maintain its online existence, at least for a while, because it operates largely through remote commands that have been is set to continue independently.
“The most likely scenario is that there is a significant outage for some users,” the former executive said. Features like post or retweet can crash or stop working when faced with an unexpected problem, the executive noted.
“It would be discovered late and it would be unclear what caused the problem and unclear how to fix it when you haven’t employed any of the people who could fix it,” the executive said.
Another possible scenario is that Twitter won’t see a single major failure, but small issues or glitches will arise, the former executive said. Maybe notifications stop working or tweets are delayed by hours of streaming. Even small issues will take a long time to fix given how few people Twitter has now.
“Normally it wouldn’t be hard to reverse these things,” the former executive said. “But now it will take days or weeks to figure it out.”
Critical data and server maintenance, which is key to preventing such issues, is about to expire because there aren’t enough people on hand 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’s definitely no way to handle all of this. Twitter is over.”
This person predicted that soon, “something critical breaks every couple of days” on Twitter, piling up until problems can no longer be fixed. Users will then leave a site that is essentially broken.
Tech and engineering experts have been tweeting about seemingly minor things that will likely go wrong in the coming weeks. Only one employee “bad code” application on a network could be detrimental if no one is available to fix it quickly. A security threat could appear 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, one former employee said, 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,” the worker said.
Musk spent part of Thursday calling engineers who refused to sign up for Twitter 2.0 to try to get them to stick around, Insider reported. In addition to the loss of engineers, finance and accounting have been eliminated, Insider reported, along with Twitter’s information security organization, which handles corporate and user data, two people familiar with the company said.
In a sudden effort to “better understand” Twitter’s technology, Musk on Friday sent out an early morning email asking “anyone” at Twitter with software coding experience to meet him in person.
“He thinks he can figure out the Twitter stack by himself in a day,” said one former employee. “I hope someone tells him how ridiculous this is.”
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