How a single engineer brought down Twitter

Carol van Zyl
Mar 7, 2023
Updated • Mar 7, 2023

It’s probably no surprise that Twitter has only about 500 engineers left within the company. No wonder users recently experienced another Twitter outage when a single engineer installed a faulty software package. 

The social media platform had to endure its second major outage in a week. These outages caused users' timelines to behave erratically or could not log into their Twitter profiles. Elon Musk instructed the engineer to end free access to the Twitter API.

How a single engineer brought down Twitter

Blue Monday for Twitter

So what happened on Monday? On Monday morning, users trying to log into their Twitter accounts discovered interconnected problems. A puzzling error notice, “your current API account does not include access to this endpoint.”  was seen by many users when they clicked on links. 

Social media managers raised another issue as they couldn’t access TweetDeck (the Twitter-owned professional app) to manage their client's brand presence on the social media platform.

Naturally, the timeline lit up with user complaints regarding the disruption while many illustrated their frustrations about images not loading either.

Unfortunately, the company provided a rather vague explanation about what was happening.

“Some sections of Twitter may not be functioning properly right now,” the company’s support account tweeted. “We implemented an internal shift that had unintended effects.”

All the commotion was due to the efforts to end free access to the Twitter API. On February 1, Twitter stated that it would no longer allow free access to its API, mainly to bring an end to third-party clients' existence and limit outside researchers' ability to study the network. The company has been focusing on a new paid Twitter API for coders.

How a single engineer accidentally took down Twitter

If this doesn’t indicate the impact Musk’s cutbacks have had on the company, then we don’t know what will! The project to develop and implement the new Twitter API was in the hands of just one site reliability expert. However, another employee stated, “the programmer made a bad setup update” that “basically destroyed the Twitter API” on Monday.

It ultimately created a domino effect within the company, which impacted the public-facing APIs and many of Twitter’s internal tools. As engineers worked to resolve this, they had variant responses on Slack, such as “crap” and “Twitter is down – the entire system.”

“For no apparent reason, the code structure is highly brittle. Will eventually require a full redesign,” was shared with an image by Twitter investor Marc Andreessen showing Twitter’s API issues trending on the site. Musk later responded, “A minor API update had huge repercussions.” 

Some present employees agree that they can not blame all on Musk’s company ownership and can blame technical failures for at least some of the issues. 

“There’s so much tech debt from Twitter 1.0 that making a change right now destroys everything,” mentioned a current employer.

Twitter is down again at the hands of one engineer


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  1. Mystique said on March 8, 2023 at 12:36 pm

    This is what happens when there are hostile takeovers.
    You would have to be a blithering idiot if you cannot see the correlation between layoffs/Musk and these issues. It’s almost like sending in an electrician to do a plumbers job or better yet sending in one man on a two man lift job. Whilst it may be able to be done it comes with much larger risks and may not be done correctly and that is putting a positive spin on it.

    “Some present employees agree that they can not blame all on Musk’s company ownership and can blame technical failures for at least some of the issues.”

    Some present employee’s are suffering from stockholm syndrome, some present employees just want to brown nose whilst some others are just clutching onto what was and what they need to keep a roof over their head and stay silent whilst others get crapped on and fired seemingly without any justification or apparently any real formal regard.

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