As Hundreds More Employees Quit Twitter, Concerns Rise About Site’s Viability

The dreaded “fail whale” seen in the platform’s early days may return as a common sight

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An exodus of Twitter engineers and other workers prompted by new owner Elon Musk’s ultimatum on pledging to an “extremely hardcore” work environment has the potential to put the platform’s operations at risk, according to multiple reports.

The number of staffers who decided to leave after Musk demanded every employee sign a commitment to “working long hours at high intensity” was much higher that what the new “Chief Twit” expected, Bloomberg News reported.

While it’s unclear exactly how many among Twitter’s already slashed workforce decided to exit — The Associated Press put the figure in the “hundreds” — many posted the “salute” emoji on the company’s Slack channels on their way out the door, in what’s become a signature of departures amid weeks of chaos at the company.

“Am hearing the number of Twitter resignations today is likely over 1,000, though unclear as not all are posting their decision,” Alex Heath, editor of The Verge, posted late Thursday. A related story on the site noted the company had just 2,900 workers remaining before Musk’s deadline.

“Some teams, such as the engineering team that manages Twitter’s core system libraries, are completely gone now.”

He added, “Hundreds upon hundreds of Twitter employees have technically resigned but still have access to Twitter’s internal systems, with some speculating it is because the employees tasked with managing that access also resigned,” including several members of Twitter’s “Command Center” that kept Twitter operating day to day. “Also entire key infra teams gone. Not good!”

Amid the exodus, thousands spent much of Thursday discussing the platform’s demise, as more celebrities signed off the platform and #RIPTwitter trended. The discussion was essentially an online wake ahead of the presumed imminent shutdown of the site. By Friday morning, users were joking that they were signing on “to see if Twitter is still alive.”

The gutting, which followed roughly 3,700 people getting fired two weeks ago along with a reported 80% of its thousands of contractors, leaves the social media company severely shorthanded on the eve of the World Cup, which in the past has led to an international surge in traffic on Twitter, according to The Wall Street Journal. It also makes Musk’s promised upgrades to the platform harder to achieve.

Any traffic increase would come on top of what Musk boasted late Thursday was “another all-time high in Twitter usage.” He posted no data to support the claim.

A short time later, the Tesla CEO, who paid $44 billion for the platform on Oct. 27, posted a meme of a person flashing a “Victory” sign at a gravesite, with Twitter’s blue bird logo on both the person and the headstone. That was followed by a meme of Princess Leia from “Star Wars” with the caption, “Help us Ligma Johnson, you’re our only hope.”

The name refers to two Twitter employees, Rahul Ligma and Daniel Johnson, who pranked their own layoffs for the press as they awaited word about the company’s first slash to its workforce two weeks ago, walking out of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco carrying boxes. Musk later “rehired” them after calling the prank “one of the best trolls ever.”

Musk early Friday also mocked reports that several senators have called for the Federal Trade Commission to probe his takeover of the company.

But even as Musk publicly joked, the exits of so many employees in such a short time has created a “cloud of confusion” over which people should have access to company property, Bloomberg reported. That led to the shutdown of Twitter headquarters on Thursday. Staffers who were last week told that remote work was a thing of the past were told in a memo that the offices would reopen on Monday.

A separate staff email from Musk said, “Regarding remote work, all that is required for approval is that your manager takes responsibility for ensuring that you are making an excellent contribution. It is also expected that you have in-person meetings with your colleagues on a reasonable cadence, ideally weekly, but not less than once per month.”

But at the same time, CNBC reported, Musk threatened to fire managers who allow their reports to work remotely if they are not “exceptional,” and did not provide guidelines about what an “excellent contribution” means.

“Please continue to comply with company policy by refraining from discussing confidential information on social media, with the press or elsewhere,” the memo added.

Musk tried to convince some people to stay as the 5 p.m. Thursday deadline to take the “hardcore” pledge approached Thursday, the report said. Key staffers were pulled into meetings to hear pitches on the platform’s future.

The exact number of people who left is not yet known, but the departures sparked concerns that too much institutional knowledge about how the platform works was walking away. Some who posted goodbye said they had been with the company for eight or even 12 years.

“Hearing from multiple employees that the odds of Twitter breaking in the near future are very high,” Heath posted late Thursday.

Tech journalist Kara Swisher of Vox Media posted that while Twitter “will not disappear,” it’s likely that the “fail whale” will return.

“Depending on how much critical staff has left & where — it’s possible tho not probable the service could shut down at any time & for a short or long time. Relax as it used to do this a lot with the dreaded fail whale logo. It usually restores.” The post was accompanied by a “new” version of the post that told users Twitter was “over capacity” featuring the face of Musk trying to lift the whale.