Ever since Elon Musk finalized his acquisition of Twitter things have been a bit... okay, it's been chaos.
First, there was the rollout of verification for $8 a month that had to be rolled back due to users parodying official accounts. Now there are reports of mass layoffs and the future of the blue bird is at risk. Meanwhile, Elon Musk is publicly ruling on which accounts will be returning to the app and which ones are still banned.
The nature of Twitter, filled with hot takes from a tsunami of people, can make it rather tricky to track just what the heck is going on. And that can leave you in limbo about whether you'll need to learn how to delete a Twitter account before it implodes. Luckily, we have been tracking the biggest updates on Twitter's current situation so you don't have to.
NEW: Email from Elon to the engineering team: "Anyone who can actually write software, please report to the 10th floor at 2pm today. Before doing so, please email me a bullet point summary of what your code commits have achieved in the past 6 months" 1/November 18, 2022
Let's start with the latest news first. According to Zoë Schiffer, managing editor at Platformer, Elon Musk has requested that members of the engineering team report to Twitter HQ today at 2 pm P.T. Musk has specifically requested "Anyone who can actually write software" — whatever that means. These members of the engineering team are being asked to submit a summary of what their work has accomplished over the past six months.
Of course, this is confusing some of the Twitter staff as they were told yesterday not to come in until November 21. Stay tuned for more updates on this latest development as they come in.
For those who are unfamiliar with what's happening over in San Francisco at Twitter HQ, it all started back in April when Elon Musk declared his intent to buy the company. The Tesla CEO said he wanted to take the social media platform private and turn it into, "An inclusive arena for free speech."
The offer was for $44 billion and some felt it was too good to be true. Their fears were confirmed when just a couple of months later, Musk attempted to back out of the sale due to Twitter underreporting the number of spam accounts.
The Twitter Board is committed to closing the transaction on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk and plans to pursue legal action to enforce the merger agreement. We are confident we will prevail in the Delaware Court of Chancery.July 8, 2022
Twitter was, of course, less than thrilled with this development. They vowed to fight Musk in court and force the sale of the company per the terms of their original agreement.
This strategy ultimately worked, and on October 27 Musk's acquisition of the social media platform became official. A day later, the company official was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange — officially signaling the beginning of Musk's ownership of the company.
NEW: In an email for remote Twitter engineers, Elon Musk says he wants to speak to people on video ("only those who cannot physically get to Twitter HQ are excused") but "if possible, I would encourage you to fly to SF to present in person." He'll be at the office until midnight.November 18, 2022
We have a new update on the developing situation regarding Twitter's engineering team being called into HQ by Musk. According to Schiffer, who broke the initial story, Musk is now encouraging all remote engineers to fly to San Francisco to meet with him.
Musk says that only Twitter engineers who, "cannot physically get into Twitter HQ," are excused from attending in person. Musk says he'll be in the office until midnight P.T. It feels odd to give employees an ultimatum with such short notice, but sadly, this is not the first ultimatum given since he took over the social media platform.
Meanwhile a Twitter employee in Europe:"Elon's email is as legally binding as me sending him an email saying 'FYI I'll work 3hrs per day from now on, k thx.'So I just keep working as before, as per my contract, until I get some official notice of what really is happening."November 18, 2022
Meanwhile, some Twitter employees are starting to chime in about Elon Musk's latest mandate. One Twitter employee in Europe said they have no plans to hop on a plane anytime soon. "Elon's email is as legally binding as me sending him an email saying 'FYI I'll work 3hrs per day from now on, k thx.'"
According to Gergely Orosz, the tech writer to whom the Twitter employee spoke, this response actually makes sense. Apparently, the U.K. and E.U. have employment laws that mean, in essence, if nobody from HR has told you that you're fired, just keep working per the terms of your contract. Apparently, some of Elon's other demands may run afoul of these laws as well.
New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter. You won’t find the tweet unless you specifically seek it out, which is no different from rest of Internet.November 18, 2022
Despite all this chaos, Emperor Nero seems content to keep playing his fiddle as Rome burns around him. Musk just tweeted out that the new Twitter policy is "Freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach." So it seems you're entitled to tweet whatever you want — for now — but that doesn't mean anyone will see it.
Apparently, Musk is also bringing back some familiar faces to the social media platform — with one notable omission. "Kathie [sic] Griffin, Jorden [sic] Peterson & [The] Babylon Bee have been reinstated." But it seems former U.S. president Donald Trump remains in exile for the time being.
Updates from @alexeheath on the Twitter staff that's all quit: multiple teams that run core services are all gone https://t.co/RbfoHbT2b8 pic.twitter.com/3eQt5NHXHaNovember 18, 2022
According to The Verge, many of the core teams of Twitter have now left in response to Musk's ultimatum of an "extremely hardcore" workplace environment. As of now, Twitter's traffic and front-end teams are some of the teams experiencing the largest exodus.
These teams being unable to run could cripple Twitter's ability to operate. They are responsible for critical systems, such as routing engineering requests. Most crucially, it appears the team that runs Twitter's core systems libraries is also largely gone. Per The Verge's reporting, one anonymous Twitter employee on the way out said that Twitter essentially cannot work without this team. Yikes.
It’s been a pleasure tweeting with y’all for the past 13 years. #RIPTwitter pic.twitter.com/XsLuMNi59ANovember 18, 2022
Well that was a flurry of information so let's recap real quick. Elon Musk buys Twitter, takes it private and then starts to introduce rapid changes. One of these changes was to issue an ultimatum that people either accept a hardcore work culture or leave — and many are choosing to leave, including critical teams.
Now it looks like Elon is issuing another ultimatum — meet me in San Francisco and be prepared to show your work. All engineers have been told to come in, but E.U. and U.K. employees may be ignoring the directive and simply going on with their day. It's certainly a chaotic scene over at Twitter, and it doesn't look set to improve just yet.
In the wake of Musk's takeover of Twitter, many have been looking for an alternate social network on which to post. One that's received a lot of attention is Mastodon, an open-source, decentralized platform. Mastodon is crowdfunded, so its continued functionality is at the whim of thousands of people, and not one billionaire.
If you're planning to leave Twitter, check out Jordan Palmer's explainer on What is Mastodon to see if it's the new platform for you to post pics of cats and the latest foods you ate.
Will the last one out please turn off the lights? According to a New York Times story, an estimated 1,200 full-time employees quit on Thursday following Musk's directives. That would leave roughly 2,500 employees left, from as many as 7,500 at the end of October.
According to the article, entire departments no longer have any staff members, or a mere skeleton crew remains.
Nevertheless myself and others were banding together, triaging services, updating on-call, literally saying to my wife on Tuesday “I’ll give it my best shot what do I have to lose?”. Then Wednesday offered a clean exit and 80% of the remaining were gone. 3/75 engineers stayed.November 18, 2022
A tweet from Peter Clowes, a software engineer, was quoted in the Times' story, saying that only three out of 75 engineers stayed after being offered a clean exit on Wednesday.
The New York Times also posted an opinion column from Yoel Roth, the former head of trust and safety at Twitter, who left his position earlier this month. In it, Roth describes the challenges of ensuring that Twitter remains a platform for people to express their opinions, while doing so in a safe manner, and one that doesn't run afoul of myriad governmental laws and regulations.
Roth says that he resigned from Twitter because "A Twitter whose policies are defined by unilateral edict has little need for a trust and safety function dedicated to its principled development."
"Even as he criticizes the capriciousness of platform policies, he perpetuates this same lack of legitimacy through his impulsive changes and tweet-length pronouncements about Twitter’s rules. In appointing himself “Chief Twit,” Mr. Musk has made clear that at the end of the day, he’ll be the one calling the shots," Roth writes.
If you’re wondering what a “salient line of code is” so is everyone who just got this emailNovember 18, 2022
Apparently, experts and employees alike are confused by what exactly Elon Musk is looking for. Casey Newton from Platformer and The New York Times says that nobody is quite sure what Elon means by "salient lines of code."
This isn't the first time that Elon's fascination with Twitter's code has come into question. Back when he first acquired the social media company, he requested that all Twitter engineers print out their last 30 to 60 days of code. The issue is, most people seem to agree this is a terrible method for evaluating a software engineer's performance. It remains to be seen if anyone was fired as a result of this mandate — as they were shortly thereafter told to shred the requested pages of code.
From Twitter Slack: “sorry to @- everybody on the weekend but I wanted to pass along that we have the opportunity to ask folks that were left off if they will come back. I need to put together names and rationales by 4PM PST Sunday.November 6, 2022
Some Twitter users are preaching patience, saying that the platform isn't going offline tonight despite the panic. And that is likely true. There certainly is no official plan to kill the platform.
However, while there may not be a countdown timer for Twitter's time on Earth, there is certainly a Doomsday Clock, and we're probably closing on two minutes to midnight. In an interview with MIT Technology Review, one Twitter engineer said that at the current pace the app will eventually break unless new staff members are brought in. Elon Musk seems to be aware of this, as attempts have reportedly been made to hire back employees that were initially laid off.
NEW: A senior member of Twitter’s legal team just posted this message in Slack:“Everyone should know that our CISO, Chief Privacy Officer and Chief Compliance Officer ALL resigned last night. This news will be buried in the return-to-office drama. I believe that is intentional.”November 10, 2022
Of course, even if Elon Musk manages to hire back enough old staff or bring on enough new staff to make up for 5,000 estimated lost employees, there's still a slight problem. Since Musk took over the company, seven executives have left the company.
This includes Yoel Roth, whose New York Times op-ed we covered earlier, but also Chief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner, Chief Privacy Officer Damien Kieran and Chief Compliance Officer Marianne Fogarty. That's a lot of senior leadership to replace in addition to the other staff Twitter is currently missing.
Even if Musk does hire replacements, they may immediately have a fire on their hands. There is increasing pressure from U.S. politicians for the FTC to investigate Twitter over security concerns and deceptive business practices. The FTC has confirmed they are tracking Twitter with "deep concern."
According to Newsweek, multiple sources told the Washington Post that the end goal of all this chaos has been something Musk calls "Twitter 2.0." This concept of a new Twitter is what prompted the email demanding that employees embrace a hardcore workplace culture or leave. Of course, we now know many Twitter employees chose the "leave" option.
But what is Twitter 2.0? Musk didn't explicitly lay out his vision, but we have some hints. It appears that it will be "much more engineering-driven" and "those writing great code will constitute the majority of our team and have the greatest sway." The one thing that seems likely is it will include a revamped version of Twitter Blue, which Musk tweeted will launch on November 29.
Punting relaunch of Blue Verified to November 29th to make sure that it is rock solidNovember 15, 2022
That's all the updates for now. If there is anything major to report in the coming weeks, we may fire this up again and update accordingly. But for now, hopefully Twitter will get the weekend to take a break from all this chaos and reset. I know I will.