Scrolling through Twitter on Thursday night was like the last day of high school or summer camp: Keep in touch, I’ll miss this place, the principal stinks.
Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, sent employees an ultimatum email on Wednesday, giving them until 5pm Thursday to decide if they would commit to being “extremely hardcore” and working “long hours at high intensity” to help him “build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0,” or leave Twitter with a three-month severance package.
Given the choice between going “extremely hardcore” or going home, hundreds of employees are believed to have opted to go home.
Musk already laid off half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees and most contract workers soon after taking control of the social media company, and Thursday’s departures “include many engineers responsible for fixing bugs and preventing service outages,” Reuters reports. By Thursday evening, one source “estimated that the public version of Twitter was at risk of breaking during the night.”
“If it does break, there is no one left to fix things in many areas,” the source told Reuters.
“I know of six critical systems (like ‘serving tweets’ levels of critical) which no longer have any engineers,” a former employee told The Washington Post. “There is no longer even a skeleton crew manning the system. It will continue to coast until it runs into something, and then it will stop.”
It isn’t clear how many people opted to leave Twitter, but the number was apparently alarming enough as the 5pm deadline approached, Musk sent an email to workers softening his November 9 dictate that all employees work at least 40 hours in the office.
Two minutes later, he threatened to fire any manager who falsely vouches that a remote employee is doing excellent work.
Musk’s team also convened “meetings with undecided employees who are key to Twitter’s operations to try to persuade them to stay,” The New York Times reports. In one such meeting, “as the 5pm deadline passed, some who had called in began hanging up, seemingly having decided to leave” even as Musk was still speaking.
After the deadline, Twitter notified employees it had closed all offices and revoked badge access until Monday.
“The best people are staying, so I’m not super worried,” Musk tweeted late Thursday, as the No. 1 trending topic in the U.S. was #RIPTwitter, followed by alternative social media platforms. Later he tweeted what appeared to be a joke about the $44 billion he spent to buy Twitter: “How do you make a small fortune in social media? Start out with a large one.”