No, it’s not déjà vu, it happened again. During Monday afternoon in Spain, those of us who logged on to Twitter to see what the new controversy was on the social network or read the comments of those who had already seen the latest episode of The Last of Us found that, to our non-surprise, the platform was broken all over the place. An event that occurred a few days after Twitter was down worldwide for several hours.
How much did Twitter break yesterday, you ask? A lot. For starters, links embedded in tweets stopped working altogether, and we users got a message alerting us that our “API plan does not include endpoint access.” Ok, Twitter. Images, gifs and videos wouldn’t load, seeing instead the gap where they would be, and, in addition, many TweetDeck users said they couldn’t get into the client.
As usual in this type of situation, the Twitter community, who could not believe that this had happened again, started to make memes. That is to say, many people (including the person writing these lines) were logically upset that Twitter had broken, but if there is one thing that characterizes tweeters, it is their ability to laugh at moments like this. And even more so when Elon Musk is the object of the mockery.
And what was Twitter’s own response to this? “It is possible that some parts of Twitter are not working as we expected. We’ve made an internal change that has had some unintended consequences,” they stated in a tweet that comes to mean the same as a student apologizing to his teacher by telling him that his dog ate his homework.
According to The Verge, this series of failures in the platform have a very specific reason: Twitter is beginning to close free access to the social network’s API. On February 2, the company announced that it would stop allowing access to the API for free, thus ending the operation of hundreds and hundreds of automated accounts, third-party clients and greatly limiting the ability of external researchers to study how Twitter works.
And all, of course, to monetize access to the API. Because the “freedom” sold by “entrepreneurs” like Elon Musk always depends on the user’s purchasing power. The main problem with this measure is that, after the many layoffs and cutbacks to which Twitter has been subjected, only one engineer has been working on the project.
And, as many will think when reading these lines, that a single person is in charge of such a delicate project is, to say the least, crazy. As The Verge has been able to find out thanks to a Twitter employee it contacted, the engineer made a “bad configuration change” that “basically broke Twitter’s API”.
This brought down, like dominoes, different internal tools of the company, in addition to the public-facing APIs. Musk, who was not very happy with the situation, replied to Marc Andreessen, a Twitter investor who posted a screenshot showing that API failures were trending: “One small API change had massive ramifications. The code is extremely brittle for no reason. Ultimately it will need a complete rewrite.”
The multiple layoffs at Twitter are having consequences, as expected. A few weeks ago, Musk fired several section chiefs and engineers for allegedly refusing to change the way Twitter’s ad targeting works in a single week. If this trend of layoffs continues, the future ex-CEO of the social network will have to take a crash course in computer science to take over the proper functioning of Twitter on his own.