Cost of conducting mass layoffs? Major Twitter outage this week triggered by just one engineer shutting down free access to Twitter API
The outage that hit Twitter on Monday was allegedly caused by a single engineer, who had been left overseeing a major change on the micro-blogging platform.
Platformer reported on the high cost of cutting expenses by CEO Elon Musk, after thousands of Twitter users reported problems accessing links from the social media platform and other websites on Monday.
On Monday morning, Twitter users encountered a range of connection issues. For example clicking on links would no longer open them; instead, users would see an error message stating that “your current API plan does not include access to this endpoint.”
Images also stopped loading as well, and other users reported that they could not access TweetDeck, the Twitter-owned client for professional users.
Twitter Support noted the problem, and then later said it now fixed the latest outage, after it had “made an internal change that had some unintended consequences.”
Some Twitter users responded with witty comments such as “Have you tried laying off more of the staff and paying fewer bills?”
Things should now be working as normal. Thanks for sticking with us! https://t.co/JXTllrv0k0
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) March 6, 2023
Platformer reported that it could confirm that the offending “internal change” blamed for the outage was caused when the platform tried to shut down free access to the Twitter API.
On 1 February, Twitter confirmed it would no longer support free access to its API, which effectively ended the existence of third-party clients and dramatically limited outside researchers’ ability to study the network.
Twitter has been building a new, paid API for developers to work with, Platformer reported.
But in a sign of just how deep Elon Musk’s cuts to the company have been, only one site reliability engineer has been staffed on the project, Platformer was told.
On Monday, the engineer reportedly made a “bad configuration change” that “basically broke the Twitter API,” according to a current employee.
The change had cascading consequences inside the company, bringing down much of Twitter’s internal tools along with the public-facing APIs, Platformer reported.
Platformer was told that Elon Musk was furious at the latest outage under his ownership, and matters were not helped when Twitter investor Marc Andreessen posted a screenshot showing that the company’s API failures were trending on the site.
“A small API change had massive ramifications,” Musk tweeted in reply. “The code stack is extremely brittle for no good reason. Will ultimately need a complete rewrite.”
A small API change had massive ramifications. The code stack is extremely brittle for no good reason.
Will ultimately need a complete rewrite.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 6, 2023
Another user responded “Maybe you shouldn’t have fired everyone.”
Too many job losses?
Platformer reported that internally some Twitter staff are sympathetic to the view that places at least part of the blame for Twitter’s problems on technical failures that predate Musk’s ownership of the company.
But others reportedly point out that when Musk took over the company, he promised to dramatically improve the speed and stability of the site.
Musk associates allegedly screened the existing staff for their technical prowess, ultimately cutting thousands of workers who were deemed not “technical” enough to succeed under Musk’s leadership, Platformer reported.
And just as former employees have predicted from the start, the losses have made Twitter increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic outages, Platformer noted.
Monday’s configuration change was at least the sixth high-profile service outage at Twitter so far this year.