Meet the people who aren’t complaining, but are building Twitter 2.0

Meet the people who aren’t complaining, but are building Twitter 2.0

There’s been a world of controversy around Twitter since Elon Musk took ownership, took Twitter private and fired a bunch of employees. Things got super heated this week when Musk sent an all-network user email titled ‘A Fork in the Road’.

This spoke about building a breakthrough Twitter 2.0 and outlined that the road ahead wouldn’t be an easy one. Those employees that wanted to be part of the new Twitter, were asked to click a link by 5PM Thursday (US time), or no longer have a role at the company and receive 3 months of severance pay.

Naturally, this is a readily change to how the company functioned, but when you own the company and see the finances in a bad shape, paired with a long list of user-requested features on the platform, things needed to change, and fast.

The anti-Elon crowd started talking about how Twitter was dead, but at least for now, the service appears to be running just fine.

What is a promising sign for the future of the platform is Elon’s latest post, ‘Just leaving Twiter HQ code review’. In this tweet, we get 3 photos, one of a whiteboard, which we’ll get to that in a second, followed by a couple of team photos.

This is the remaining team, the team that stood up and wanted to be part of building Twitter 2.0, a better platform and app than it is today. The people in these photos will be names we learn in the future, ones that are talented programmers that actually can execute on features that we as users can actually enjoy.

Now for that whiteboard.

It’s rare to see content from inside the company, especially anything to do with current and future development items. While Musk has hinted at potential improvements to the platform, the whiteboard photo does reveal some more information.

In the whiteboard photo from tonight’s code review, it appears the flow starts from left to right along the ‘Read Path’. This starts with the Web, Android and iPhone which points to the Twitter Front End, then splits for iPhone/Web which must share a similar code base, then HTTP and android.

From here we see the iPhone/web path leveraging Graph QL and something called Federated Strato Column which feeds the Timeline Mixer (more on this soon). The iPhone/web path also references the tweet/user, content hydration, visibility and filtering.

The HTTP and android path shows it uses a TLS-API which is being deprecated. Getting all Twitter front ends on the same code base makes a lot of sense, much easier to maintain if you can achieve it. TLS-API also feeds into the Timeline Mixer, which I expect is what gives each Twitter user a unique experience, based on who they follow etc.

‘Timeline Mixer’ gets a lot of focus in the center of the board, with various arrows to sub-systems or functions coming off it, such as People discovery service, Ad mixer, mboarding service. It’s not clear if these are different functions of the product or have different teams working on each.

The box headed by the title Timeline Mixer, lists the following sub-items Inject ads, who-to-follow, and onboarding which sounds very much like the old suggested user list (SUL). It then talks about a conversation module, likely around threaded comments, followed by pagination, deduplication and served data logging.

We also see references to a Prediction service, a Home ranker, a Home scorer, Feature hydration and possibly some more interesting items called ‘Manhattan’. For those not up on their history, the famous ‘Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons.’ Assuming Twitter isn’t going nuclear, this is likely a reference to R&D features they’re not yet ready to share publicly.

In the lower left, we see a simply statement ‘next-gen systems –>’ with no detail (possibly cleared before the photo was taken’.

Other takeaways are ‘Early Bird’, Space, which I assume is Twitter Spaces, and a Prediction Service which I’m sure involves some level of AI recommendation for trending topics or interesting accounts to follow.

The one I really am stuck on is Uteg.. in its dictionary meaning, it refers to a ‘block of metal used in a balance to measure the mass of another object’ which sounds like a Musk thing to reference, but keen to know more.

The last item of interest is the Thrift RPC, part of a contentious issue online this week, with one long-time developer at the company firing back at Musk’s comments around how bad the code currently was at Twitter, making excess calls that resulted in poor performance of the Android app.

Btw, I’d like to apologize for Twitter being super slow in many countries. App is doing >1000 poorly batched RPCs just to render a home timeline!

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 13, 2022

The takeaway from all this is that you can put the technology funeral procession on hold for Twitter, it’s not dead yet, not by a long shot.

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