For a couple of years now I’ve been monitoring a stale Twitter account I’d like to possess. Every other week I go to https://twitter.com/ and check if that’s the week Twitter decided to cleanup its database.

Today something finally changed. I got a 404 instead of the usual stale account. My heart immediately got filled with hope.

I went straight to the update profile page of the account I want that username for, prepared for victory. But what I found was frustration.

First, a silly bug with the username availability check that never completes:

Username availability check

If you ignore it and try to save, another weird behavior:

Weird validation

Having lost hope in assuming the username with the existent account, I switched to plan B, trying to create a fresh account to save the username. But now it thinks the account exists:

New account validation

Trying to find some consistency I decided to check what their API says (simplified output below). This one thinks it doesn’t exist:

curl --get 'https://api.twitter.com/1.1/users/show.json' --data 'screen_name=<redacted>’
< status: 404 Not Found
{"errors":[{"code":34,"message":"Sorry, that page does not exist."}]}

So, recapitulating:

  • the user page thinks the user doesn’t exist
  • the update profile page is broken in two different ways
  • the sign up page thinks it’s taken
  • the API thinks it’s not

Being a developer I sympathize with the challenges of consistency at Twitter’s scale but it’s still a pretty bad experience.

I tried contacting their support but am not holding my breath since before filling the form they already state they won’t answer.

Our support team reviews reports about bugs and broken features. Though we cannot respond to individual reports.

At least support is consistent with the overall bad experience.