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Twitter wipes out followers to kill bug

Microblogging site back on track after squashing a bug that was messing with followers

May 10, 2010 03:01 PM ET

Computerworld - For all the Twitterers who were fretting about where their followers went earlier today, fear not. They're back.

Twitter engineers have corrected a bug that was messing with users' followers on Monday. To fix the problem, Twitter engineers had to reset users' followers/following numbers to zero for a while around midday, according to Twitter's Status update.

The microblogging site seemed to be back on its feet again a little after 2 p.m. EDT.

"We identified and resolved a bug that permitted a user to 'force' other users to follow them," the social networking site said. "We're now working to rollback all abuse of the bug that took place."

The company also noted that the bug did not make any private updates available to all.

The problem started with a bug that enabled members to add followers to their accounts simply by tweeting "accept" followed by the "@" sign and someone's Twitter logon.

The company has not said how many users' accounts were affected by the bug.

The problem caused the blogosphere to light up this morning with tweets about the problem. By 2:30 p.m. EDT, five of the site's top 10 trending topics were about today's bug.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said the swift reaction to Twitter's trouble wasn't surprising.

"What we really see with social networking is that for any given tool, whether it's Twitter, Facebook or any other site, there is a hard core of very active users who care a lot about any problems, changes, or interruptions," said Olds. "These people are very vocal and opinionated -- passionate, in other words."

On Twitter, users definitely were having their say.

"Screw the stock market crash. The Twitter followers crash is vastly more scary!" tweeted @dalmaer today.

And @PierreSherrill was looking for the silver lining, writing, "I'm thinking about unfollowing people and blaming it on the Twitter bug!"

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at Twitter@sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed Gaudin RSS. Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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