CNN

Glitches, echoes and ‘melting the servers’ crash DeSantis’ campaign launch on Twitter

May 25, 2023, 7:00 AM

Twitter headquarters stands on 10th Street in November 2022 in San Francisco, California. Twitter’s livestream event with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis crashed and was delayed on May 24. Photo credit: David Odisho/Getty Images

NEW YORK (CNN) — Twitter’s livestream event with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis crashed and was delayed on Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of users logged on to hear DeSantis announce his bid for the White House.

Sound from the livestream event — which was held on Twitter Spaces and hosted by owner Elon Musk and tech entrepreneur David Sacks — cut in and out in the first minutes after starting.

“We’ve got so many people here that we are kind of melting the servers,” Sacks said at one point.

More than 500,000 Twitter users joined the event, which was ultimately ended and then restarted, delaying DeSantis’ announcement by nearly half an hour. When the event was relaunched using Sacks’ account, only around 250,000 users ultimately listened in.

Twitter has faced a variety of outages and technical issues since Musk took over the platform late last year. Shortly after acquiring the company, Musk laid off large numbers of technical and other staff and reduced Twitter’s server capacity in an effort to cut costs.

In recent months, Twitter has faced multiple service outages that affected the ability of thousands of users to access the site, to view images and to read tweets on their timelines. Users have also previously reported issues with the app’s two-factor authentication tool, seeing replies listed above a tweet rather than below it and seeing old tweets show up repeatedly in their feed or mentions.

Musk and Sacks admitted on Wednesday that the limited capacity of Twitter’s servers played into the issues it faced getting the DeSantis event underway. “I think you broke the internet there,” Sacks said when the event was relaunched.

The pair added that Musk’s following of more than 140 million users may have also contributed to the issue. “I think it crashed because when you multiply a half-million people in a room by an account with over 100 million followers, which is Elon’s account, I think that creates just a scalability level that was unprecedented,” Sacks said.

Attempting to spin the launch issue in a positive direction, Sacks said: “You know you’re breaking new ground when there’s bugs and scaling issues.”

Twitter’s Spaces product was not necessarily built to host events with hundreds of thousands of listeners. Most other Spaces have — at most — several hundred listeners at a time. Spaces was described as a “prototype” and “janky” tool by a former Twitter employee familiar with its development.

“Spaces was largely a prototype, not a finished product,” the former employee told CNN. “It’s a beta test that never ended.”

They added that Spaces relies on a mix of Twitter’s technical infrastructure and Amazon Web Services servers, “things that aren’t intended to handle Twitter-scale traffic.”

Twitter acquired the video streaming platform Periscope in 2015. The former employee said Twitter Spaces had been built on Periscope’s existing infrastructure and not integrated with Twitter properly — which likely contributed to Wednesday’s technical problems.

After restarting, the event ran for close to an hour. Sacks acknowledged the glitch again at the end, saying, “It’s not how you started, it’s how you finish and we finished strong.”

–CNN’s Kit Maher contributed to this report.

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Glitches, echoes and ‘melting the servers’ crash DeSantis’ campaign launch on Twitter