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All Is Fair in Love and Twitter

All Is Fair in Love and Twitter NYTimes com


But in Silicon Valley, luck can be a euphemism for something more sinister. Twitter wasn’t exactly conceived in a South Park playground, and it certainly wasn’t solely Dorsey’s idea. In fact, Dorsey forced out the man who was arguably Twitter’s most influential co-founder before the site took off, only to be quietly pushed out of the company himself later. (At which point, he secretly considered joining his biggest competitor.) But, as luck would have it, Dorsey was able to weave a story about Twitter that was so convincing that he could put himself back in power just as it was ready to become a mature company. And, perhaps luckiest of all, until now only a handful of people knew what really turned Twitter from a vague idea into a multibillion-dollar business.

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Jack Dorsey: revisionist historian.

Right in the center of South Park, a large, grassy oval near San Francisco’s financial district, there is a rinky-dink playground with slides, ladders and firefighter poles, all dented and dinged, connected by gritty brown pylons. Yet for many in Silicon Valley, this playground is hallowed ground. It was here, one breezy day in 2006, according to legend, that Jack Dorsey ordered burritos with two co-workers, scaled a slide and, in a black sweater and green beanie, like a geeked-out Moses on Mount Sinai, presented his idea for an Internet service that would allow users to update their current status and share what they were doing. “That playground right up there is where I first brought up the idea,” Dorsey, whose present-day uniform is a white Dior dress shirt and tailored dark blazer, told CNBC earlier this year.

“The idea for Twitter?” the interviewer asked him.

“Yep,” Dorsey replied.

He lies. He'd been trying to do Twitter since at least 2000:

Nick Bilton sets the story straight:

Twitter wasn’t exactly conceived in a South Park playground, and it certainly wasn’t solely Dorsey’s idea. In fact, Dorsey forced out the man who was arguably Twitter’s most influential co-founder before the site took off, only to be quietly pushed out of the company himself later. (At which point, he secretly considered joining his biggest competitor.)

Original idea of Twitter was SUPER BORING:

One night in late February 2006, around 2 a.m., Dorsey sat in Glass’s parked car as rain poured down on the windshield. The two were sobering up after a night of drinking vodka and Red Bull, but the conversation, as usual, was about Odeo. Dorsey blurted out that he was planning his exit strategy. “I’m going to quit tech and become a fashion designer,” Glass recalls him saying. He also wanted to sail around the world. Glass pushed back: He couldn’t really want to leave the business entirely, could he? “Tell me what else you’re interested in,” he said. Dorsey mentioned a Web site that people could use to share their current status — the music they were listening to or where they were. Dorsey envisioned that people would use it to broadcast the simplest details about themselves — like “going to park,” “in bed” and so forth.

Noah Glass made the idea good AND came up with the name Twitter:

As he listened to Dorsey talk, Glass would later recall, he stared out the window, thinking about his failing marriage and how alone he felt. Then he had an epiphany. This status thing wasn’t just about sharing what kind of music you were listening to or where you were, he thought. It could be a conversation. It wasn’t about reporting; it was about connecting. There could be a real business in that. He would certainly like such a service: his nights alone in his apartment, alone in his office, alone in his car, could feel less alone with a steady stream of conversation percolating online. The two brainstormed for a while longer, and as Dorsey staggered out of the car to go home, Glass said, “Let’s talk to Ev and the others about it tomorrow.”

The next morning, on Feb. 27, 2006, Dorsey and Glass walked into an Odeo conference room to talk about the idea with Williams and Biz Stone, an Odeo colleague and Williams’s friend from his Blogger days. Williams and several other Odeo executives had been working for weeks on a similar idea, which they called “Groups,” where people would converse with their friends, likely through audio clips. But the idea from the night before — a status updater that could be used to connect friends — sounded more promising. Glass soon took charge of the project, writing guidelines and a feature list about how this site would work. He added integral elements, including time stamps, to let people know when an update had been shared. Stone started exploring designs. Dorsey and another programmer, Florian Weber, did the coding. Williams pushed a bloglike template that showed people’s past messages in a stream.

Soon, the question of a name came up. Williams jokingly suggested calling the project “Friendstalker,” which was ruled out as too creepy. Glass became obsessive, flipping through a physical dictionary, almost word by word, looking for the right name. One late afternoon, alone in his apartment, he reached over to his cellphone and turned it to silent, which caused it to vibrate. He quickly considered the name “Vibrate,” which he nixed, but it led him to the word “twitch.” He dismissed that too, but he continued through the “Tw” section of the dictionary: twist, twit, twitch, twitcher, twitchy . . . and then, there it was. He read the definition aloud. “The light chirping sound made by certain birds.” This is it, he thought. “Agitation or excitement; flutter.” Twitter.

Dorsey will make $400 million to $500 million when Twitter goes public. Glass stands to make about as much as Dorsey’s secretary at Square.

Jack Dorsey looks bad in this story:

As the new service evolved, though, the power struggle between Williams and Glass, which had been simmering at Odeo, moved to Twitter. Glass, protective of his new idea and distracted by his divorce, was growing increasingly edgy and anxious. When a lower-level employee mistakenly let a well-known tech entrepreneur join the service, Glass went into a tirade. “This is our enemy,” he yelled in front of the staff. “We need a war map. They’re going to attack us.” He also pulled Dorsey aside and confessed his fears that Williams wanted him out.

What Glass didn’t know was that Dorsey was the one who wanted him out. Perhaps it was because he sensed vulnerability or perhaps it was because Glass was the only person who could rightly insist that the status updater was not Dorsey’s idea alone. Whatever his reasons, Dorsey had recently met with Williams and threatened to quit if Glass wasn’t let go. And for Williams, the decision was easy. Dorsey had become the lead engineer on Twitter, and Glass’s personal problems were affecting his judgment. (For a while, portions of the company existed entirely on Glass’s I.B.M. laptop.) After conferring with the Odeo board, around 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 26, 2006, Williams asked Glass to join him for a walk to South Park. Sitting on a green bench, Williams gave his old friend an ultimatum: six months’ severance and six months’ vesting of his Odeo stock, or he would be publicly fired. Williams said the decision was his alone.

That night, a defeated Glass met with Dorsey at a nearby club, where they drank late into the night. At one point, as they stood at the bar to order another round of drinks, Glass confided his day’s ordeal. Dorsey acted dumbfounded and blamed Williams. As the night came to a close, Glass hugged his friend and walked home. Two weeks later, he was forced out of the two companies he co-founded. Dorsey soon became chief executive of Twitter.

Evan Williams understood the potential of Twitter in a way that Jack did not:

When Williams asked Dorsey to send a companywide e-mail setting Twitter’s goals, his first draft began with the subject line “3 things I want for Twitter (Goals),” each goal beginning with an off-putting “I.” Dorsey often tried to act as if he were in control, posturing that his actions were all part of a bigger plan, but employees saw him frequently pacing in frustration around South Park. He also habitually left around 6 p.m. for drawing classes, hot yoga sessions and a course at a local fashion school. (He wanted to learn to make an A-line skirt and, eventually, jeans.) His social life, once virtually nonexistent, was becoming a distraction as venture capitalists wooed him at San Francisco Giants baseball games and parties throughout the city. On Dorsey’s watch, Twitter, which had never been completely upgraded from its prototype, was suffering major infrastructure problems that regularly knocked the site offline for hours at a time.

One summer afternoon, Williams asked Dorsey to meet him in the upper-floor conference room that the Twitter gang referred to as Odeo Heights. They opened the door to the small room, pulled back the chairs across from each other and sat, hands clasped as they had dozens of times before. “You can either be a dressmaker or the C.E.O. of Twitter,” Williams said to Dorsey. “But you can’t be both.”

Dorsey seethed silently as Williams ticked off his grievances. But their dispute over Dorsey’s management illuminated a far deeper disagreement. Dorsey still believed that Twitter was primarily a service through which people could talk about themselves by updating their at-the-moment status. Williams worried that simply appealing to people’s egos would make Twitter too ephemeral. After seeing how users responded to a series of events that year, including an earthquake and a car crash, he was coming to a different conclusion — one that was much more in line with what Glass had thought from the beginning. Twitter was a service for people to talk about what was going on around them, to share news and information. It was when Williams explained this concept — eventually saying Twitter was about “what’s happening” — that many in the industry, including those who once dismissed it, started to understand its potential.

The greatest product Jack Dorsey ever made was Jack Dorsey:

In Silicon Valley, there is no currency like access. Access to venture capitalists can provide a way for entrepreneurs, like Zuckerberg, to see a company grow by hundreds of thousands of users a day. Access to the tech blogosphere and press can help percolate a fledgling start-up into a multibillion-dollar business. But this access often relies on having a narrative — being an entrepreneur with just the right creation story. And Dorsey, once a shy kid with a speech impediment from St. Louis, proved remarkably savvy at selling himself.

After he was stripped of his power at Twitter, Dorsey went on a media campaign to promote the idea that he and Williams had switched roles. He also began telling a more elaborate story about the founding of Twitter. In dozens of interviews, Dorsey completely erased Glass from any involvement in the genesis of the company. He changed his biography on Twitter to “inventor”; before long, he started to exclude Williams and Stone too. At an event, Dorsey complained to Barbara Walters that he had founded Twitter, a point she raised the next day on “The View” with Stone and Williams. Dorsey told The Los Angeles Times that “Twitter has been my life’s work in many senses.” He also failed to credit Glass for the company’s unusual name. “We wanted to capture that feeling: the physical sensation that you’re buzzing your friend’s pocket,” he told the paper.

Dorsey’s story evolved over the years. He would tell Vanity Fair that the idea for Twitter went back to 1984, when he was only 8 years old. A “60 Minutes” segment reported that Dorsey founded Twitter because he “was fascinated by trains and maps” and how cities function. Later, he would explain that he first presented the idea, fully realized, on a playground in South Park. All along, Dorsey began casting himself in the image of Steve Jobs, calling himself an “editor,” as Jobs referred to himself, and adopting a singular uniform: a white buttoned-up Dior shirt, bluejeans and a black blazer.

Evan Williams was loyal to his friends:

It didn’t hurt Dorsey’s case that Fenton was also frustrated with Williams’s inability to manage the company’s rapid growth. Twitter needed to hire a new chief technology officer, a chief operating officer and a chief financial officer, among other high-level jobs, but Williams couldn’t make up his mind. Often, he preferred to pick from a litter of friends, people he trusted who wouldn’t try to undermine him or hurry his slow decision-making. So Fenton pitched the idea of bringing in, as an adviser, Bill Campbell, the famously foulmouthed former C.E.O. of Intuit and head coach of the Columbia University football team, who had mentored Jobs, Google’s Eric Schmidt and many other top executives. During their first meeting, Campbell’s message was exceedingly simple. When Williams asked, “What’s the worst thing I can do as C.E.O. to screw the company up?” Campbell responded, “Hire your friends!” He then went into a 10-minute tirade about how friends and business don’t mix. Williams scribbled in his notepad. They shook hands and agreed to start meeting once a week.

Fenton was encouraged by the first meeting, but Williams ignored the advice. He saw his success as the result of a lot of hard work and also a fair bit of luck, and he wanted to give the people he knew the opportunity to be a part of it. He hired his sister, to stock the kitchens at Twitter; his wife, Sara, was hired to design the new offices; and he employed numerous friends from Google. Among them was Dick Costolo, who had recently sold his start-up for $100 million. After they bumped into each other at a party in 2009, Williams asked him to be Twitter’s chief operating officer. On his first day, Costolo, a former improv comedian, thumbed his first tweet: “First full day as Twitter COO tomorrow,” he wrote. “Task #1: undermine CEO, consolidate power.”

Twitter's Jack Dorsey confesses that 'maybe' he wanted to 'screw' over co-founder

A mostly glowing profile on the Twitter creator captures at least one moment of tangible bitterness between Dorsey and one-time Twitter CEO Evan Williams.

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