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Elon Musk has been having fun with the notion that he might prove to the undertaker of the messaging platform he acquired less than a month ago for $44 billion, tweeting a meme on Nov. 17 with the service’s blue bird logo superimposed on a gravestone.

Key Takeaways

  • Concerns about Twitter mounted after Elon Musk issued an ultimatum to employees.
  • The CEO and owner demanded staff commit to work “long hours” to remain with the company.
  • Some Twitter engineers have said staff cuts and Musk’s software code changes will “break” the service.
  • Musk has delayed a verification revamp until Nov. 29, after the site spent several days certifying the authenticity of any account willing to pay $8 monthly, enabling a spate of impersonations.

By then, Twitter employees had already been locked out of the company’s offices and been told they would reopen on Nov. 21.

All that happened a day after the world’s richest human circulated a memo informing the half of Twitter’s employees that he didn’t cut upon taking over that they must be “extremely hardcore” by “working long hours at high intensity” to remain. They were given a day to accept those terms by signing an online form.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many of some 3,000 employees still with the company had done so, and how many opted instead for three months’ severance Musk offered as an alternative. More than a hundred have said publicly they will leave, and hundreds more have signaled their willingness to be laid off in internal forums.

Some Twitter engineers have been saying for weeks that the departure of more than half of the company’s employees would undermine the site’s software code, leading to outages. Some Twitter engineers have also questioned Musk’s expertise, and he responded to public criticism from one by firing him.

Worries about Twitter’s reliability have escalated with more employee departures on the horizon, and as Musk said he would shut down most of the site’s microservices, or autonomous software functions.

Musk has made other pronouncements as Twitter CEO, only to reverse course, including a revoked ban on work from home. He also rolled out and then walked back Twitter verification as a premium feature, which had the service awarding blue check marks intended to signal authenticity to anyone willing to fork over $8 a month.

His miscues have had real-world impact: Ely Lilly shares briefly plunged, erasing $15 billion 0f the company’s market value, after a fake account claimed the drug maker was making insulin available for free. They also led to innumerable other jokes at the expense of companies and celebrities, not least Musk himself, before verification was suspended. The feature is now scheduled to relaunch Nov. 29, though details of how it might work have changed from tweet to tweet by the CEO.

Little wonder Twitter’s possible demise became a leading conversation topic on the social network, as well as media sites ranging from Vanity Fair to Search Engine Journal.

The reactions ranged from humor to anger. Someone projected a scrolling string of insults to Musk onto the front of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters.

Musk tweeted late on Nov. 17 that Twitter usage has never been higher. Thus far, the code has held, and Musk has 44 billion reasons (minus non-recourse loans) to keep Twitter in good working order. His $181 billion net worth, based on a Nov. 17 estimate, may also give him some peace of mind.

“How do you make a small fortune in social media? Start out with a large one,” Musk tweeted shortly after his deadline for employees expired.

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