Where have my X (aka Twitter) images gone?

X isn't rendering pictures and links on posts made before December 2014. I lost years' worth of links and images. Did you?
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
X app logo
Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Anyone who follows me on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, or any other social network for that matter, knows I post a lot of tech and dad memes and links to stories. So, I was concerned when when I saw that Tom Coates, a well-known technology product strategist, had reported that "Twitter has now removed all media posted before 2014." 

This came after X's owner Elon Musk proposed getting rid of the ability to block people; sticking a five-second delay on rival social networking and some news accounts; changing Twitter's name; making Tweetdeck a subscription-only service, and limiting direct messaging for non-subscribing users. None of these moves have been popular. 

Some images survived. Or, at least, they came back. Twitter's most famous image, Ellen DeGeneres' 2014 Oscars selfie, disappeared but later reappeared. It had more than 2 million shares on Twitter alone.

Also: X to remove headlines from news links as Elon Musk encourages journalists to publish directly on the site

My "most famous" image, a meme about the five stages of software development -- denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance, is still missing in action.

Of course, Twitter didn't always have images. The social network didn't support images at all until September 2010. Even after that, you couldn't upload images with its PhotoBucket partnership until the summer of 2011. Before that, you could only tweet photos and video links using services such as the long-gone Twitpic and Yfrog. 

So, what happened this time? We don't know. 

It might be a problem with the site itself. I've long predicted, X's performance would go downhill

The web design company DigitalSilk recently analyzed the loading times of the most popular social media websites to see which sites load the fastest using the Pingdom Website Speed Test.

Also: Bluesky vs. Threads vs. Mastodon: If you leave Twitter, where will you go?

The rebranded X, came in ninth of all sites studied, with an average of 1.76 seconds to load in full. Well ahead of X was LinkedIn, the fastest site at 0.33 seconds; Mastodon at 0.4 seconds; Snapchat at 0.45 seconds, Pinterest with 0.65 seconds, and in fifth place, the direct Twitter rival Bluesky at 0.78 seconds. 

Twitter's performance is pathetic for a site that mostly just pushes text to its users. This indicates back-engine problems.

And, indeed, it appears that X may not simply have deleted everyone's old images to save storage costs, as Coates first speculated. Instead, he commented, "It's POSSIBLE that Twitter hasn't intentionally done this for cost-cutting, but just f***ed stuff up when doing their punitive link delays on the NYT and stuff last week. It's possible the redirect that sent http to https was broken in the process."

Twitter itself didn't report any problems when people started noticing that their old images and links were gone and/or failing.  Others have speculated that X's t.co link-shortening domain, which X uses to "improve" network traffic and track user activity, could be the problem.  

Also: 5 reasons to try Twitter rival Bluesky

Of course, as Coates observed, "The problem is it doesn't really change anything. The images are still effectively deleted from the public internet. The breaking of the link shortener could just as easily be a conscious decision (eg. to limit bandwidth costs from spiders and web crawlers) as a bug."

Besides, Coates added, "Even if it's a bug, the reporting is that it didn't just happen overnight. So it's either directly an Elon decision, the unfortunate accident of an Elon decision, or wasn't fixed because the engineering team is overstretched/ill-equipped because of an Elon decision."

We simply don't know who did what with this latest failure. We do know, though, that shortly after this incident went public, Musk tweeted, "The sad truth is that there are no great 'social networks' right now. We may fail, as so many have predicted, but we will try our best to make there be at least one."

Also: New 'BeFake' social media app encourages users to transform their photos with AI

I don't know about trying to be great, but that doesn't sound like the usual rah-rah Musk of the recent past. 

Now, X is claiming, via its support account, that it's fixed the bug. And, "No images or data were lost. ... and the issue will be fully resolved in the coming days." We'll see. In the meantime, my images are still nowhere to be seen. Yours?

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