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Twitter briefly zeroes out 'follow' counts to fix a bug

Twitter users might have felt a little devalued earlier this afternoon when their "following" and "follower" counts mysteriously reset to zero. As the latter number is the primary way people on the popular status-update-sharing site keep score -- it indicates how many other Twitter users see your updates when they log on -- seeing that vanish could have been distressing. (The former number indicates how many other people's updates you follow, and most people pay far less attention to it.)

Thumbnail image for twitter_logo_outline.png

The root cause of the hiccup was the discovery by some sneaky users of the San Francisco-based site of an old bug that let them force other users to follow them. That could allow for a fair amount of mischief, so Twitter management shut off its follow functions to close that vulnerability and posted a brief note on the site's status blog to that effect:

We identified and resolved a bug that permitted a user to "force" other users to follow them. We're now working to rollback all abuse of the bug that took place. Follower/following numbers are currently at 0; we're aware and this too should shortly be resolved.

Within an hour or so, the site was back to normal.

Considering how rapidly Twitter has grown from its start-up roots, I'm somewhat surprised that this sort of glitch hasn't happened earlier or more often. And I'm relieved to see the site recover so quickly; things could have been a whole lot uglier in Twitterville.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 10, 2010; 3:06 PM ET
Categories:  Social media  
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I'm so relieved our nation made it through this terrible tragedy.

Posted by: sarahabc | May 10, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

First the earthquake in Haiti and now this. Bad things comes in threes, so who knows what could be next?

Posted by: billbasey2 | May 10, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Tweet, tweet, plop!!!

Posted by: gmclain | May 11, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

No, no, no! Bad things do come in threes, but you've got the pattern all wrong. It's the Holocaust, then this Twitter bug, and the third will be the birth of the Antichrist signaling the Apocalypse.

Posted by: hayesap8 | May 11, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

OH! How can the world continue to survive without a daily ego boost from seeing how many 'friends' you gained today!! Tragedy! TRAGEDY!! Woe is me!! How can people continue to live?? The world is coming to an end!!

It's nice to see we have our priorities in order!

Posted by: joeblotnik49 | May 11, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

This cannot be. How will thousands of others learn instantly what I thought of my lunch? I fear for our democracy.

Posted by: curtmccormick | May 11, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Maybe this explains all the folks talking/checking/texting today in traffic? Back to zero....a catastrophe in the popularity contest.

Posted by: tbva | May 11, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I fear that Ashton Kutcher may have killed himself...

Posted by: ozpunk | May 11, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

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