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As Twitter staff empties out, users fear the worst for platform

<i>Amy Osborne/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>As Twitter staff leave
AFP via Getty Images
Amy Osborne/AFP/Getty Images
As Twitter staff leave

By Clare Duffy, CNN Business

On Thursday night, following another exodus of Twitter employees, the outage detection site Down Detector showed a spike in users reporting issues accessing the social media platform. A chart of the sharp increase in outage reports was shared by some users on Twitter, appearing to validate a growing fear that the site would struggle to stay online with fewer staff. But that wasn’t exactly the case just yet.

In fact, Twitter did not appear to be facing an outage, but rather Down Detector was automatically registering hundreds of tweets from users wondering whether the site might go “down” or if the company would be “shutting down.” The apparent confusion highlighted a very real anxiety about Twitter’s imminent demise, just weeks after it was acquired by the world’s richest man.

After new owner Elon Musk demanded that Twitter employees agree to work “extremely hardcore” or leave the company by 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, many opted for the latter option, with one former executive referring to the exits as a “mass exodus.”

“They will struggle just to keep the lights on,” the former executive, who recently exited the company, added.

As users digested the news late Thursday and early Friday, the platform had the air of the last day of high school. People on the platform mused about the possibility that they could be sending their final tweets if Musk and his remaining team struggled to keep the platform functioning. This week’s departures came after Musk had already laid off around 3,700 Twitter employees, or about half the staff, earlier this month.

Multiple Twitter users suggested that any followers who have a secret crush on them come forward in case the platform goes down for good. Others posted links to follow them on alternative platforms. Former employees held a “therapy” Twitter spaces to discuss better times working for the platform before Musk’s takeover catapulted it into chaos, and what they are planning to do now that they’ve left.

Musk posted a meme seeming to make fun of the fact that people were discussing the death of Twitter on the platform itself. He also said in a separate tweet that “the best people are staying, so I’m not super worried.”

Already, however, Twitter users have reported glitches with the platform in recent days, including issues with two-factor authentication and an apparent test page that showed up live in its trending section Thursday. On Friday morning, an element of the feature that allows users to download their data from the site appeared to be broken.

Twitter, which has largely cut its public relations team, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As of Friday morning, the platform remained up and running, and almost certainly won’t face an immediate demise. But Thursday’s exits — which included key infrastructure engineers as well as important roles in finance, user safety and other areas of the business, according to employee tweets — do raise legitimate questions about the platform’s ability to continue functioning without service interruptions.

“It’s a morgue,” one employee who remains at Twitter told CNN about the mood inside the company Friday, adding, “and yes we are still doing what we can today although the pace is painfully slow.”

The uncertainty also comes at a particularly bad moment for Twitter: the World Cup, which is often one of Twitter’s busiest times for the platform’s global usage, is set to kick off on Sunday.

On Friday morning, Musk sent an email to Twitter’s remaining staff instructing anyone “who actually writes software” to report to the 10th floor of the company’s San Francisco headquarters at 2 p.m. PT, despite having previously said the company’s offices would be closed through Monday. They were instructed to send an email prior to the meeting detailing “what your code commits have achieved in the past ~6 months.”

In a follow-up email, he asked remote workers to prepare for virtual meetings but noted “only those who cannot physically get to Twitter HQ or have a family emergency will be excused.” The email continued: “These will be short, technical interviews that allow me to better understand the Twitter tech stack,” according to a copy of the email provided to CNN by a former employee who asked not to be identified.

In a third email, Musk said he would “appreciate” if any remote employees could fly to the San Francisco headquarters to meet in person.

— CNN’s Oliver Darcy contributed to this report.

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