Twitter almost blew its big moment as ‘melting’ servers and decimated staff struggled to keep the lights on for DeSantis announcement

Elon Musk shrugging with thumbs pointed outwards
Elon Musk blames overloaded servers for Twitter Spaces crashing while Florida governor Ron DeSantis announces his presidential run on the platform's live audio feature.
Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images

In a closely watched performance Wednesday evening, one of the country’s most controversial subjects crumbled under pressure.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who announced his 2024 presidential bid in a live interview on Twitter, accomplished his objective. Twitter, not so much.

The social network suffered a series of technical failures, crashing multiple times, ultimately requiring the event to be restarted. The glitches, which left many users unable to tune into the the Twitter Spaces live audio feed and caused a flurry of complaints about garbled or echoey sound, seemed to be the result of Twitter’s infrastructure straining under the load.

“We’ve got so many people here that we are kind of melting the servers, which is a good sign,” said venture capital investor David Sacks, who was conducting the interview with DeSantis, according to several media reports. After 21 minutes of confusion, Sacks was forced to pull the plug on the Spaces, which had roughly 668,000 people tuned in, and relaunch a new Spaces from his personal Twitter account.

Roughly 300,000 users attended the relaunched Twitter Space, where the 44-year-old Republican governor immediately announced his presidential campaign.

Twitter owner Elon Musk declared it a victory, tweeting later that new Twitter account signups “just went ballistic.”

“I call it ‘massive attention’,” Musk said in another tweet. “Top story on Earth today.”

To others however, the glitch-plagued event was a live demonstration of Musk’s mismanagement of Twitter, which he purchased in November for $44 billion. Since the acquisition, Musk has laid off more than 80% of Twitter’s staff. With layoffs impacting so many engineers at Twitter, especially those who had knowledge of older and complicated systems at the company, leadership has notably struggled to find or rehire people who know how to fix the litany of bugs affecting the platform. This could be especially true when it comes to Spaces.

Despite the heavy load on Twitter’s servers during Wednesday’s DeSantis event, the company appears to have successfully hosted a far larger crowd on Spaces in the past. In early November, former Twitter ad executive Robin Wheeler hosted a Spaces for which a whopping 2.7 million users tuned in. That event took place shortly after Musk had taken the helm and laid off half the company’s staff, leaving Twitter with about 3,500 employees at the time. Since then however, Twitter’s ranks have dwindled even further, with company headcount currently at about 1,300 active employees, according to CNBC.

Buggy Twitter Space shows unavailable.
Kylie Robison/Fortune

One former Twitter employee told Fortune that Twitter Spaces “wasn’t built on the generally well-understood Twitter infrastructure”; it’s built on the old Periscope infrastructure, something former head of product at Twitter and founder of Periscope Kayvon Beykpour confirmed early last year.

A second former Twitter employee said Spaces was always buggy even before Musk laid off so many of the engineers who worked on it. Three former Twitter employees confirmed that there was always a team on standby to jump in and fix big breaks like the one that happened today. It’s unclear whether that crew still exists today, or how many people are left on the Spaces team.

“Spaces was largely branded to support more intimate chats—some with hundreds to low thousands of listeners,” a third former Twitter employee told Fortune. “Additional stops were pulled out for bigger marquee spaces to ensure they had live support.”

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