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    Twitter risks fraying as engineers exit over Musk upheaval

    AP – Elon Musk’s managerial bomb-throwing at Twitter has so thinned the ranks of software engineers who keep the world’s de-facto public square up and running that industry insiders and programmers who were fired or resigned this week agree: Twitter may soon fray so badly it could crash.

    Musk ended a very public argument with nearly two dozen coders over his retooling of the microblogging platform earlier this week by ordering them fired. Hundreds of engineers and other workers then quit after he demanded they pledge to “extremely hardcore” work by Thursday evening or resign with severance pay.

    The newest departures mean the platform is losing workers just as it gears up for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which opens today. It’s one of Twitter’s busiest events when tweet surges heavily and stresses its systems.

    “It does look like he’s going to blow up Twitter,” said a veteran cybersecurity entrepreneur Robert Graham. “I can’t see how the lights won’t go out at any moment” – although many recently departed Twitter employees predicted a more gradual demise.

    Hundreds of employees signalled they were leaving ahead of Thursday’s deadline, posting farewell messages, a salute emoji or other familiar symbols on the company’s internal Slack messaging board, according to employees who still have access.

    Dozens also took publicly to Twitter to announce their departure.

    Twitter splash page. PHOTO: AP

    Earlier in the week, some got so angry at Musk’s perceived recklessness that they took to Twitter to insult the Tesla and Space X CEO.

    Twitter leadership sent an unsigned email after Thursday’s deadline saying its offices would be closed and employee badge access disabled until Monday. No reason was given, according to two employees who got the email – one who took the severance, one still on payroll. They spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution.

    A trusted phalanx of Tesla coders at his side as he ransacked a formerly convivial workspace, Musk didn’t appear bothered.

    “The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried,” he tweeted on Thursday night. But it soon became clear some crucial programming teams had been thoroughly gutted. Indicating how strapped he is for programmers, Musk sent all-hands emails Friday summoning “anyone who writes software” to his command perch on Twitter’s 10th floor at 2pm – asking that they fly into San Francisco if not local, said the employee who quit on Thursday but was still receiving company emails.

    Three engineers who left this week described for The Associated Press why they expect considerable unpleasantness for Twitter’s more than 230 million users now that well over two-thirds of Twitter’s pre-Musk core services engineers are gone. While they don’t anticipate near-term collapse, Twitter could get very rough at the edges – especially if Musk makes major changes without much off-platform testing.

    Signs of fraying were evident before Thursday’s mass exit. People reported seeing more spam and scams on their feeds and in their direct messages. Engineers reported dropped tweets. People got strange error messages.

    Still, nothing critical has broken. Yet.

    “There’s a betting pool for when that happens,” said one of the engineers. Another said that if Twitter has been shutting servers and “high volume suddenly comes in, it might start crashing”.

    “World Cup is the biggest event for Twitter. That’s the first thing you learn when you onboard at Twitter,” he said.

    With the earlier layoffs of curation employees, Twitter’s trending pages were already suffering. The engineering fireworks began on Tuesday when Musk announced on Twitter that he had begun shutting down “microservices” he considered unnecessary “bloatware”.

    “Less than 20 per cent are needed for Twitter to work!” he tweeted. That drew objections from engineers who told Musk he had no idea what he was talking about.

    And indeed, one microservice briefly broke – the one people use to verify their identity to Twitter via SMS message when they log in. It’s called two-factor authentication.

    “You have hit the limit for SMS codes. Try again in 24 hours,” Twitter advised when a reporter tried to download their microblogging history archive.

    Luckily, the email verification alternative worked.

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