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Twitter’s short-lived global outage: normality restored, but for how long?

Twitter experienced a short global outage late Wednesday, and even if the service was restored soon to more than 10,000 affected users, observers and analysts say the future is not promising.

Thousands of users globally were unable to access Twitter or use its key features for several hours Wednesday evening. It was the social media site’s first widespread service disruption since billionaire Elon Musk took over the company in late October.

Downdetector, a website that tracks outages through a range of sources including user reports, showed more than 10,000 affected users from the United States, about 2,500 from Japan and about 2,500 from the United Kingdom at the peak of the disruption.

Twitter outages reported to DownDetector. Image by Cybernews.

Most of the reports came from users stating they faced technical issues accessing the social network via web browser in their desktops or laptops – the mobile app didn’t seem to be affected.

However, reports of outages fell sharply in several hours. Even though Twitter didn’t respond to media requests for comment because it has disbanded its press service, Musk indirectly suggested the disruption might have been related to repairs inside Twitter.

“Significant backend server architecture changes rolled out. Twitter should feel faster,” Twitter’s boss posted after replying “works for me” to another user’s complaint about the outage.

Normality restored, it would seem. However, analysts say more regular Twitter outages are only to be expected in the context of mass firings at the company. About 50 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 staff were sacked in Musk’s first week. In his second week, about four in five of the firm’s 5,500 contractors were released.

The new ownership never denied the idea was to slash costs but that included making large cuts to the data centers that keep the platform running. Twitter operates three major data centers globally, but Musk ordered the biggest one, in Sacramento, to be shut down on Christmas.

According to the Washington Post, in group chats among current and former Twitter engineers, some people discussed the possibility that the outage was triggered by a software update gone wrong. In July, before the job losses, Twitter already experienced one of its longest outages for years, with the social network unavailable to users on web and mobile for almost an hour.

An American data scientist Emily Gorcenski ironically commented: “Lol the thing that literally every software engineer with any experience knew would happen is happening.”

Just before Christmas, Musk bewildered many when he publicly self-reported unplugging “one of the more sensitive server racks.”

Classic Elon Musk on Twitter. Image by Cybernews.

Earlier this month, Musk confirmed he would step down as chief executive once a suitable replacement was found. He cited Twitter’s finances as a reason to delay his promised departure.

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