Image Credit: Reuters

Twitter is in a precarious situation amid growing questions about the site's ability to continue operating. Hundreds of employees have reportedly opted to quit after the ultimatum that Elon Musk issued to the staff Wednesday.

The number of engineers overseeing multiple critical systems had been reduced, in some cases to near zero, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke to The Washington Post, and hashtags including #RIPTwitter, #TwitterDown and #Goodbye have been trending.

Some Twitter users - including politicians, embassies and government departments - have started preparing for the worst in case the site goes down permanently.

If you're worried, here's what you need to know.

Is Twitter shutting down?

Probably not (right now). In public comments, owner Elon Musk continues to express confidence. Overnight, he said the company had "just hit another all-time high in Twitter usage" - a high presumably related to the number of people tweeting about Twitter.

"The best people are staying, so I'm not super worried," Musk wrote Thursday about his employees. Remember, Musk paid $44 billion for Twitter, so he has a big incentive to prevent its collapse.

The fears that Twitter could go down are linked to the current staffing crisis - people familiar with the situation say that many engineers working on critical systems have left, leaving the system vulnerable to problems and with few people left to fix them.

The departures also are said to have had a major impact on teams working on misinformation and fake accounts, which could lead to an increase in online harassment or dangers for activists and others who use the site to share sensitive information.

Some users have been reporting functionality problems with Twitter, according to, which indicated that thousands of Twitter outages had been reported in the last 24 hours.

Why are Twitter employees quitting?

Musk has owned the company for less than a month, and staffing levels have fallen sharply.

Roughly half the staff was cut in an initial round of layoffs this month. That was followed by Musk's announcement last week that all workers would be required to return to the office, angering many of the remaining staffers.

Then, on Wednesday, Musk issued an ultimatum to the remaining employees, telling them to commit to a new "hardcore" Twitter or leave the company with severance pay; that ultimatum expired at 5 p.m. Eastern time Thursday. Hundreds of Twitter employees opted to take severance instead of staying, current and former employees said.

Musk has since appeared to backtrack on the return-to-office mandate - in what is seen as a sign that the number of those declining to sign was greater than anticipated.

It's not clear how many Twitter employees are remaining.

How do I download or backup my tweets?

If you're worried about Twitter going down, you can start by downloading all of your old tweets.

Twitter offers a backup option, however it in the past week there have been reports that the files are delayed or not sent to users at all. In the past, Twitter said it can take 24 hours or longer for your data to be readyGo ahead and put in a request to be safe.

Go to Settings - Your Account - Download an Archive of Your Data. After you jump through a few security hoops, you'll be able to request your information as a zip file via the "request archive" button.

The archived information should include your account information, account history, apps and devices, account activity, interests and Ads data.

Once you've made the request, you'll need to wait - and should receive an in-app notification when the archive is ready to be downloaded. You've have a limited amount of time to access the files.

How else can I prepare in case Twitter shuts down?

Given that Twitter has been widely used for public communication, some political figures and bodies are making preparations in case it shuts down.

For example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., shared her Instagram handle and email with her 13.5 million Twitter followers, and a number of state agencies in the United States have announced alternative ways of keeping informed. Seattle's Office of Emergency Management has told residents how to sign up for emergency alerts by text message, phone or email in case Twitter shuts down. A number of journalists have also started tweeting out their email or other contact details.

Tweet your own alternative online locations and pin that tweet to your Twitter feed. If you have people with whom you communicate only via Twitter DM, reach out and ask for alternative contact details. If you decide to post your contact information on Twitter, take care to share only details you are comfortable being made public.

Avoid deleting your Twitter account completely for now. That will prevent your old user name from being made available to someone else, so it cannot be used for scams or impersonation.

What alternatives to Twitter are there?

There is no replica for Twitter, and there hasn't been enough time since Musk took over for a real replacement to emerge. Popular creators are sharing links to their Patreon accounts, newsletters and Instagrams. People could spend more time on established options such as Reddit, LinkedIn, Tumblr or even Facebook groups. As far as a place to spent hours scrolling, TikTok is the most popular alternative.

One of the most talked about Twitter alternatives has been the German social network Mastodon, which describes itself as the largest decentralized social network on the internet.

Searches for Mastodon first spiked after Musk announced a Twitter takeover bid in April. More than 70,000 users joined Mastodon the day after he officially took over, according to the platform, with over 1 million accounts added by Nov. 12.

Mastodon is not the same as Twitter, however: The site has far fewer users, and instead of signing up to a central site, people join separate sites, or servers. Reviews have been mixed, with many finding it confusing and overly technical.