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Elon Musk Is Continuing To Do Things A Twitter Engineer Says Will Break Twitter

Over the coming months, the engineer predicts that Twitter will creak and break.

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockNov 16 2022, 17:29 UTC
An illustration of Elon Musk.
It's been a rough few weeks. Image credit: Wirestock Creators/shutterstock.com

Elon Musk has announced Twitter Blue for the second time this month, tweeting "punting relaunch of Blue Verified to November 29th to make sure that it is rock solid". But while his smaller team work on the project, which critics say could lead to impersonation problems on the platform, engineers and developers from Twitter and elsewhere have voiced their concern that the platform could begin to creak and break in the coming months. 

Following Musk's decision to delete "microservices bloatware" claiming "less than 20 percent are actually needed for Twitter to work", Musk was warned by Twitter engineer Sheon Han. Han, who deleted an initial tweet criticizing the decision, quote-tweeted their boss to say "as a Twitter engineer working on a number of those microservices, I'm predicting a massive outage in the next few days if 80 percent are turned down".

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Sure enough, whether it was the direct result of the shutdown or due to other areas of code in need of an urgent fix, later that day people with two-factor authentication for extra account security found that they could not log into their accounts, as the system would not send them a code.

All that is to say, you should probably listen to your engineers when they urgently give you a warning. One engineer, speaking to MIT Technology Review, issued such a warning, telling the site that Twitter is already seeing signs of a gradual breakdown.

“The larger catastrophic failures are a little more titillating, but the biggest risk is the smaller things starting to degrade,” site reliability engineer Ben Krueger told MIT Technology Review. “These are very big, very complicated systems.”

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One of the problems that Musk faces is a human one, specifically that he has fired a lot of them. The remaining staff are likely in for a grueling time, especially as Musk has asked them to commit to working "long hours at high intensity" or leave the company with severance. 

"Round-the-clock is detrimental to quality," one Twitter engineer told MIT Review, citing odd notifications and unusual-looking retweets that users have reported since the takeover, "and we’re already kind of seeing this".

The engineer warned that big problems could happen when large volumes of traffic hit the site, such as happens during large news events. When you have a diminished site reliability team, and focus is shifted to new features, this could be when bigger breaks might happen. The breaks will accumulate, according to the engineer, until eventually the site becomes "not usable".

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The warning, which has been widely shared, has not affected Musk's plan to push ahead with new features, such as the reintroduction of his briefly-suspended Twitter Blue Verification scheme, nor his willingness to let employees of the firm who know the site inside-out leave the team.


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