In what is becoming an increasingly regular occurrence, social media platform Twitter suffered its latest outage on Monday, with tweets and articles on the platform failing to load for most of its close to 250 million users around the world. The outage is estimated to be the sixth such instance within less than three months — a rate of error that the platform had not seen before.
A report on the matter by Platformer claimed that the reason behind this outage is the lack of enough staff at the company, brought forth by rampant downsizing of the Twitter workforce that owner Elon Musk enforced, after a long-drawn process led to him buying the company in October last year. In November, Musk reduced the number of employees at the company from 7,500 to around half of this number, with nearly all employees in India laid off.
Now, Platformer said that the outage was a result of a ‘bad configuration change’ made by an employee, who happens to be the sole remaining worker in a team of engineers that was previously tasked with handling the platform’s application programming interface (API). The latter refers to software that allows other platforms to access Twitter, and vice-versa. As a result of a configuration error, users saw a message that said, ‘Your current API plan does not include access to this endpoint’, along with a link to a Twitter support page, upon clicking a link.
A New York Times report said that Twitter’s remaining employees are struggling to make do with the remaining workforce, and the remaining staff are often left without knowhow on dealing with an issue. On top of this, a report by The Verge said that Twitter has cancelled its subscription of Slack, although Musk has not confirmed this. Employees cited in the report said that without previous employees who were in charge of specific tasks, as well as the Slack repository of legacy documents that could have helped present employees in finding old issues to troubleshoot the new ones, the ones left at the company are struggling to patch bugs that were previously patched quickly.
This is reflecting on Twitter’s frequency of outages, too. In December last year, Twitter suffered a widespread outage after Musk claimed to have made “significant” backend server changes. Since then, Musk has been looking to up the ante in terms of monetising the platform, but issues have plagued the platform. Data from Down Detector suggests that Monday’s outage was Twitter’s fifth such outage, and six in the past three months.
Musk, meanwhile, conducted a further downsizing last month, and as per reports, around 2,000 employees are left at the firm. Musk labelled it a “difficult” decision, and vowed to offer the remaining staff attractive stock options and other benefits, to be offered by March 24.
However, the Tesla and SpaceX chief has also continued to cut costs all-round, shutting down one of Twitter’s three data center operations, shuttering offices (including in Mumbai and Delhi), rolling out a paid verification program, and even charging businesses for accessing the social media platform’s API.