Increased Twitter Outages Under Musk Ownership Suggest Possible Systemic Issues
Twitter suffered its sixth outage of the year on Monday, with users encountering error messages while attempting to click on links or post images. The site remained partially available, however, allowing users to engage in their favourite activity – discussing the site’s problems live on the platform. While the site's regular outages have been attributed to a variety of factors in the past, such as a change to the Twitter API, some experts are concerned that these errors may be symptomatic of a more significant issue.
Reduced Engineering Team
Steven Murdoch, a professor of security engineering at University College London, believes that the regularity of Twitter's outages is a sign of a systemic problem. He cites a significant reduction in Twitter's engineering team as the reason for the increase in errors. With fewer people to monitor the system and catch minor problems, more serious problems can arise, which eventually affect large portions of Twitter's user base. Murdoch suggests that a complete rewrite of Twitter's code could help avoid such problems. Still, this strategy is high-risk as it would result in splitting the already-reduced engineering team between maintaining the old code and developing the new version.
Pushing for a rewrite
The suggestion of a complete rewrite of Twitter's code has already caused controversy. Elon Musk, who has been vocal about his views on Twitter's problems, confirmed that a small change to the API had caused the most recent outage. He also stated that the code of the site was "extremely brittle for no good reason" and that fixing the problems would "ultimately need a complete rewrite." However, Musk has had previous experience with a rewrite of a similar magnitude when he was CEO of PayPal, which ended in failure.
Challenges to a Rewrite
A rewrite of Twitter's code would have to compete with other demands on the company's time, such as compliance with new EU regulations and an ongoing investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission. Twitter's cost-cutting measures, such as reducing the workforce from 7,500 to about 2,000, have also resulted in pushback, with the company refusing to pay bills for office space, janitorial supplies, and even web hosting. This reduction in resources means that Twitter may struggle to implement a rewrite of its code while also complying with new regulations and managing its debt of $13bn.
Twitter's recent outages have raised concerns about the stability of the platform, and some experts believe that a complete rewrite of the code may be necessary to address the issue. However, this would be a high-risk strategy that would have to compete with other demands on the company's time and resources. While Twitter may be able to address the issue with smaller-scale changes, it remains to be seen whether these measures will be enough to prevent further outages in the future.