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Hit the road, Jack: A Twitter retrospective

"Not sure anyone has heard but, I resigned from Twitter."

So ended a 15-year reign for Twitter's founder, and naturally in a Tweet, from @Jack.

In many ways, Twitter reflects the eccentricities of its departing founder.

(Source: Alexander Shatov on Unsplash)

"The weirdest CEO in Silicon Valley," Britain's Independent newspaper called Jack Dorsey.

And indeed, what other Big Tech CEO has been fired from his own company, as he was in 2008 (he would return in 2015), for doing too much yoga?

An idealistic and almost hippie founder, with a raggedy beard of varying lengths and nose ring, he was certainly different from his peers.

It's easy to forget Twitter released full details of its studies admitting its content ranking algorithms showed a bias towards right-wing sources, and its photo-cropping algorithms struggled with darker skin.

Meanwhile Facebook's internal research on its flaws had to be leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen.

When Twitter banned Donald Trump in January 2021, citing offline harm as a result of online speech, Dorsey's response was to accept the blame: "I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation," he tweeted.

Dorsey's platform also holds less information on you than Facebook. Thus advertisers aren't willing to part with as much money for the data it does hold.

Hence the platform has lagged others on monetization.

Activist investor Elliott Management, with a 4% stake in Twitter, had successfully pushed for Dorsey to leave over a year ago.

Movement on monetization was part of it, though Dorsey's extracurricular interests as concurrent CEO of payments company Square also figured.

A regulatory filing from last November 2020, which now seems significant, said the company had "updated the CEO succession plan in line with best practices."

Dorsey will remain on Twitter's board until his current term expires next year, then depart. "The company is ready to move on from its founders," he said in a statement.

The next 15 years of tweets

So what's next for the $19.75 billion company?

In comes Parag Agrawal, Twitter's chief technology officer, a cerebral figure with a PhD from Stanford.

Agrawal is well regarded and competent, and now being plucked from relative obscurity, likely faces being called before Congress sooner than later.

Also, Google, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Palo Alto Networks and now Twitter are run by CEOs who grew up in India.

Which is even today a "good reminder of the opportunity America offers to immigrants," tweeted Patrick Collison, Stripe's Irish-born, Silicon Valley-dwelling CEO.

You also could now make another list, of Big Tech companies which began with eccentric visionary founders and moved on to safe pairs of hands.

That said, tabloids on the right of center have already attacked Agrawal as "woke new Twitter CEO."

Along with holding off the artillery which has already begun to rumble in Capitol Hill, monetization will keep Agrawal busy.

Twitter's advertising revenues grew last year by 14% to $2.99 billion, but this was heftily down from 24% the year before.

Meanwhile, Dorsey says he will now focus more on Bitcoin, which he believes has the potential to bring about world peace.

At the age of 45, he has room enough for a second act.

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— Pádraig Belton, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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