Updated July 30th.
During the last month, Twitter users have been afflicted by a bug that unfollows all the people following them, as well as the people the afflicted users are following. The only protection right now is backing up your Twitter account (or rather, your ”following” and ”followers” lists) with a service like Tweetake.
Yesterday morning my Twitter timeline all of a sudden seemed to have frozen. I was following 340+ people, but all I could see the last five hours was my own recent updates. It was as if all the people I was following had gone quiet (it’s a strangely eerie feeling, by the way).
Doing a quick search on Twitter’s help forum, I realized I wasn’t the only one. It seems like this is a bug that’s been showing up since end of May. The cause is unknown (at least Twitter isn’t commenting on it) but it seems that the real problem is that your account stops following people, and people stop following you.
Another side effect of this seems to be that you disappear from Twitter’s ”Find People” feature.
Some users have reported that this got fixed. However, it seems like it isn’t thanks to Twitter fixing the accounts. It’s rather a random thing just as the bug causing this. For some people, the problem goes away and then re-appears, others report frozen timelines for weeks.
Since Twitter is neither responding, nor (from what I can tell) actively doing something to help the individual users afflicted by this bug, the only thing you can do is the quick and dirty fix: re-follow all the people you were following, and ask them to re-follow you. This will leave your account with false numbers (see list of symptoms below), but it’s either that or hoping that Twitter actually fixes the problem anytime soon (or at least comments on it). If you were following several hundred people, re-following everyone will be an arduous task. Having a list of people you’re following makes it a bit easier. Tweetake is a service that takes all your tweets, your followers and the people you’re following and exports them in a comma separated file (can be opened in Excel, Google Docs or Open Office Calc). You still will have to re-follow the people manually, one by one, but at least you will have the list to get you started.
Symptoms of frozen timeline/lost followers issue:
- Your timeline stops updating with tweets from people you are following, your own tweets keep showing up. Sometimes your timeline only contains your own tweets and nothing else.
- People who were following you still have you in their ”following” count, but aren’t following you. If they re-follow you, their ”following” count goes up by 1 (they get a false ”following” count)
- People you were following you still have you in their ”followers” count, but you aren’t following them. If you re-follow them, their ”followers” count goes up by 1 (they get a false ”followers” count)
- The count of people your following seems normal on your profile page. Trying to list them, however, gives a blank list. Re-following people adds to your ”following” count. If you re-follow all the people you used to follow you will seemingly follow twice as many as you actually are following.
- The count of your followers seems normal on your profile page. Trying to list them yields a blank list. When they re-follow you adds to your original ”followers”, leaving you with seemingly many more followers than you actually have.
- You no longer show up in Twitter’s ”Find People” search. People who want to follow you have to go to your profile page (http://twitter.com/yourusername) to follow you.
EDIT: another symptom might be that a day or two before this happens, you might be unable to post tweets through applications like Tweetdeck or through Twitter’s own web interface. Once you go to the web site, log out, and log in again you are able to post.
EDIT: during the last 24 hours, Twitter seems to have corrected the following/followers counts – which leaves people with ”Frozen Timeline”-issue with 0 followers, 0 following. ”Frozen Timeline” is not an issue of frozen timeline, it’s an issue of Twitter dropping relationships which is a disaster. Still no public comment from Twitter about this.
EDIT: I don’t recommend starting to refollow people anymore. Twitters spamdefenses will disable your account for ”suspicious activities” as starting to follow many people at once and not having many followers is something they attribute to spam accounts. Twitter can restore the list of people you were following, but not those who were following you (which sucks). You have to file a request in the support form (which is surprisingly hard to find): http://tr.im/uIqd
EDIT: It seems that Twitter is having more problems regarding followers/following. Some users can’t start following people, some can’t get new followers. Twitter are aware of the latter, but there doesn’t seem to be any solution as of yet.
(And if you used to follow me on Twitter, please add me again – @kazarnowicz)