Here’s How Twitter ‘Breaks’ Under CEO Elon Musk, According to Experts
- A sudden, catastrophic failure of Twitter is unlikely, insiders say.
- Still, they expect a stream of problems to pile up to the point where it no longer can function.
- With so few employees left to share critical work, “Twitter is done,” a former employee said.
Twitter’s technical strength is being put to the test under the leadership of Elon Musk, leaving insiders and experts to agree that a breakdown of the site is possible, even likely, in the near future.
Sites like Twitter do not simply go dark in the face of issues that cannot be fixed quickly – or at all. Yet, with more users than ever before and drastically fewer employees thanks to the combination of a mass layoff and a mass resignation in just three weeks of Musk’s ownership, serious technical issues seem bound to occur.
Entire teams within Twitter have effectively shuttered through Musk laying off about 3,500 people earlier this month and an estimated 2,000 people who resigned on 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 keep existing online, at least for a time, because it operates largely through remote commands that have been set up to continue independently.
“The most likely scenario is there’s a major feature breakage for some-to-all users,” the former executive said. Features like posting or re-tweeting could glitch or stop working by running into some unexpected issue, 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 have none of the people who could fix it employed” the executive said.
Another likely scenario is that Twitter won’t see a single major failure, but small issues or glitches will build up, the former executive said. Maybe notifications stop working or tweets show up in feed hours late. Even small issues will take too long to fix, given how few people Twitter has now.
“It would normally not be hard to reverse these things,” the former executive said. “But now it will take days or weeks to actually figure it out.”
Critical maintenance of data and servers, which are key to preventing such issues, is set to lapse because there are not enough people on hand to handle the workload, a former employee with knowledge of Twitter’s systems said.
“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 that. Twitter is done.”
This person predicted that soon, “something critical breaks every couple of days” on Twitter, piling up until issues can no longer be fixed. Users will then leave a site that is effectively broken.
Tech and engineering experts have posted to Twitter regarding seemingly minor things that will likely go wrong in the coming weeks. Just one employee applying “bad code” to a network could be detrimental if no one is available to fix it quickly. A security threat could emerge, without anyone discovering it in time or knowing how to fix it.
One current Twitter engineer said Thursday he and other remaining colleagues realized they now “have to maintain Twitter and learn everything.”
That may not even be possible, one former worker said, given the loss of knowledge on Twitter’s operations and code base.
“You can’t fire us all and expect people to go in next Monday and magically fix everything,” that worker said.
Musk spent part of Thursday calling engineers who declined to sign up for Twitter 2.0 to try to get them to stay, as Insider reported. Besides losing engineers, finance and accounting has been hollowed out, 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 tech, Musk on Friday sent early morning emails asking that “anyone” left at Twitter with software coding experience meet him in person.
“He believes he can understand the Twitter stack all by himself in a day,” a former employee said. “I hope someone tells him how playful that is.”
Are you a Twitter employee or someone else with insight to share? Contact Kali Hays at email@example.com, on secure messaging app Signal at 949-280-0267, or through Twitter DM at @hayskali. Reach out using a non-work device.