According to Parmy Olson, an analyst for Bloomberg, Twitter has a very small number of users at present. Elon Musk set a deadline for remaining employees to accept "extremely tough" terms or take three months' severance pay last Thursday night after half the company was laid off two weeks ago.
Many opted for the latter. The exact number of original 7,500 employees is unknown. Fortune magazine reported that 75 percent of the remaining 3,700 employees had quit, while the Verge reported that only about 2,900 remained.
The real number may be somewhere in between. The site will collapse without enough engineers in the near future, according to many employees. Twitter has temporarily suspended credential access to the building, meaning no one can enter the office.
Naturally, Musk ignored the concerns.
“The best people are staying so I’m not super worried,” he tweeted.
Musk enjoys having loyal followers on Twitter and surrounds himself with loyalists. Correcting him gets you thrown out.
The billionaire fired several engineers who openly criticized him. There is no doubt that running a global online platform with a small team is possible. The number of Twitter employees is estimated to be between 1,000 and 2,000.
Considering WhatsApp had a fraction of that number of engineers, 55, in 2014 when it was bought by Facebook, with about 450 million monthly active users, that's still a lot of engineers. Twitter has about 300 million monthly active users.
You could also argue that drastic times call for drastic measures. Musk took the reins of the company, which was unprofitable in the last quarter. The company's core employees, engineers capable of high-speed and high-intensity work, must be reduced to reduce costs radically.
But none of these arguments really hold weight if the goal is long-term success. In addition to having few dozen employees, WhatsApp was also notoriously cautious about introducing new features, and its founders focused primarily on ensuring its features ran smoothly.
Musk doesn't intend to just keep the servers running. He wants to turn Twitter into an "app for everyone", with a range of new features such as payments to emulate larger online platforms such as China's WeChat. It's a particularly demanding task for Twitter.
Since it has been operating for 16 years, the systems are full of technical errors, and other errors have occurred as a result of numerous upgrades. Its systems are very complex and spread over multiple networks. The process of reshaping them will take time and expertise, but Musk is in a hurry and has dismissed a lot of people who have a deep understanding of the systems.
Musk plans to relaunch his $8 Twitter Blue service on Nov. 29 to make sure it's "rock solid." But Twitter itself might not be so tough when that happens.