Twitter’s chaotic weekend ends with more questions than answers

It was a chaotic weekend on Twitter.

It started with sudden changes as to who could view tweets, followed by sudden changes as to how many tweets users could view, and even times when many users couldn’t see tweets at all.

A new error message — “Rate limit exceeded” — confused many Twitter users who were seeing it for the first time. When Elon Musk announced the platform was temporarily limiting the number of tweets users could view, it created more questions than answers.

By Monday morning, most of the website’s issues appeared to have been resolved. It remained unclear, however, just what people could expect from the platform. Several users of Twitter’s dashboard application TweetDeck, a tool that allows users to monitor multiple Twitter timelines and profiles simultaneously on side-by-side columns, reported they could not load tweets.

It also remained unclear how the changes may affect Twitter's viewability outside its platform. Google appeared to no longer be showing tweets at the top of some search results.

"We’re aware that our ability to crawl has been limited, affecting our ability to display tweets and pages from the site in search results," a Google spokesperson said. "Websites have control over whether crawlers can access their content."

It was at least the second time this year that major changes to Twitter coincided with technical problems. In March, multiple Twitter features malfunctioned after the company made changes to its Application Programming Interface, which allows developers to build programs that can interact with the platform.

The chaos is something Twitter users have come to expect under Musk, but it was the first major issue under the new CEO, Linda Yaccarino.

Yaccarino, who replaced Musk in June and previously served as chair of advertising sales at NBCUniversal, hopes to win back advertisers who fled Twitter after Musk’s takeover. She has not commented publicly on the weekend’s outages, but liked some of Musk’s tweets, including one in which he wrote: “The reason I set a ‘View Limit’ is because we are all Twitter addicts and need to go outside. I’m doing a good deed for the world here. Also, that’s another view you just used.”

Musk remains the owner of Twitter and now holds the title of chief technology officer at the company.

The changes began on Friday, when Musk said that tweets would temporarily be unavailable to people without an account. Previously, a link to a single tweet could be viewed in a web browser without logging in.

On Saturday, Musk said unverified users would only be able to read 600 tweets a day. He then changed the figure a few times. Most recently, according to Musk, verified users can see up to 10,000 posts a day, unverified users can see 1,000 posts a day, and brand-new users can see 500 posts a day.

Around the same time, Twitter users started reporting issues accessing the platform’s primary service, encountering the “Rate limit exceeded” message instead of the infinite stream of tweets they had come to expect. Thousands of users reported trouble loading content on Twitter.

Twitter responded to a request for comment on how long the restrictions would be in place with an automated email of a poop emoji.

Musk’s stated reason for the restrictions — to limit the ability of data-scrapers to collect information from Twitter’s platform — was questioned by some former employees.

According to Musk, companies “from startups to some of the biggest corporations on Earth,” have been scraping Twitter’s platform for free data to use in developing artificial intelligence tools. Data-scraping refers to automated activity that collects large amounts of data from websites.

Yoel Roth, a former head of safety at Twitter who quit not long after Musk’s takeover, posted his own theory on the glitches.

“For anyone keeping track, this isn’t even the first time they’ve completely broken the site by bumbling around in the rate limiter,” Roth posted on Bluesky, a Twitter alternative funded largely by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. “There’s a reason the limiter was one of the most locked down internal tools. Futzing around with rate limits is probably the easiest way to break Twitter.”

According to Roth on Bluesky, “It just doesn’t pass the sniff test that scraping all of a sudden created such dramatic performance problems that Twitter had no choice but to put everything behind a login.”

“Scraping was the open secret of Twitter data access,” Roth wrote. “We knew about it. It was fine.”

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