X, which was formerly known as Twitter until its recent rebranding, is having a problem displaying old posts that came with images attached or any hyperlinks converted through Twitter’s built-in URL shortener. It’s unclear when the problem started, but it was highlighted on Saturday afternoon in a post by Tom Coates, and a Brazilian vtuber, @DaniloTakagi, had pointed it out a couple of days earlier.
As it is, it appears to affect tweets published prior to December 2014, judging by posts visible on my own account. No videos are affected (Twitter only added native image support in 2011 and built-in videos in 2016), but links to YouTube, for example, are now just text with a t.co URL that doesn’t work.
On Saturday afternoon, as Coates pointed out, the glitch claimed the picture from one of the most famous tweets ever (back when they were still called tweets), this selfie posted by 2014 Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres flanked by celebs like Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and others, taken during the show’s broadcast.
It quickly became the “most retweeted ever,” with over 2 million shares on the platform.
I haven’t seen any public comments from owner Elon Musk or X CEO Linda Yaccarino about the problem, but at some point on Saturday night / early Sunday morning, the picture in that post was restored.
Despite speculation that it could be an intentional cost-cutting move by Musk, the fact that the actual media posted hasn’t been deleted suggests an error or bug of some kind, one of many that have arisen since last year’s takeover and mass layoffs.
There’s also at least one other old tweeted image that still worked — the one posted to President Barack Obama’s account after winning his 2012 campaign for reelection, showing a hug between him and the First Lady. It’s unclear if that one had been manually restored, but it was still visible on Saturday afternoon.
The timing for the cutoff in pictures and links that are broken seems related to changes Twitter made in 2016, adding “enhanced URL enrichment” to show previews for linked websites and native attachments that didn’t count against Twitter’s 140-character limit. According to developer documentation, the metadata for these additions “began emerging” in December 2014.
From the X Developer Platform Data Dictionary:
In March 2012, the expanded URL enrichment was introduced. Before this time, the Tweet payloads included only the URL as provided by the user. So, if the user included a shortened URL it can be challenging to match on (expanded) URLs of interest. With both Historical PowerTrack and the Search APIs, these metadata are available starting in March 2012.
In July 2016, the enhanced URL enrichment was introduced. This enhanced version provides a web site’s HTML title and description in the Tweet payload, along with Operators for matching on those. With Historical PowerTrack, these metadata become available in July 2016. With the Search APIs, these metadata begin emerging in December 2014.
In September 2016 Twitter introduced ‘native attachments’ where a trailing shared link is not counted against the 140 Tweet character limit. Both URL enrichments still apply to these shared links.
Twitter, X, or whatever it’s currently called, did not respond to requests for comment.