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The Nine Best Things We Learned from The New York Times' Twitter Exposé
Ellen Cushing | Photo: Courtesy New York Times Magazine | October 11, 2013
Management infighting, their creepy original name, and a cameo by a drunk Al Gore.
It's been a good week for SF-oriented longreads, and the lead story in Sunday's New York Times Magazine is possibly the spiciest yet. It's an excerpt from a forthcoming book by Times tech-business reporter Nick Bilton (and noted man) about the origins of Twitter, and it is, perhaps unsurprisingly, full of scintillating tidbits, shocking admissions, and at least one uncommonly baleful bowl of granola. Let's take a journey, dear reader:
Jack Dorsey apparently once threatened to "quit tech to become a fashion designer" while sitting in a car in the rain at 2 a.m., which is just about the funniest tableau I could possibly think of.
One of the earliest proposed names for Twitter was "Friendstalker." It was deemed "too creepy." Wonder why.
David Karp was almost forced out of Twitter before it was sold to Yahoo. As Valleywag aptly notes, it conforms with longstanding rumors of "near implosion at the International House of GIFs." Intrigue!
Dorsey is, according to Bilton at least, incredibly manipulative. Bilton recounts the story of Noah Glass, an engineer who was integral to the founding of Twitter, whom Dorsey forced out by "threatening to quit if Glass wasn't let go." When confronted by Glass about it, Dorsey "acted dumbfounded." Classy.
Dorsey was apparently a horrible CEO. He "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.)" According to Bilton, under Dorsey's tenure as CEO suffered from a number of bookkeeping mistakes, "major infrastructure problems," and a fairly serious leadership vacuum. In case you haven't caught on yet, Dorsey's definitely the villain in this particular story.
After Dorsey was forced out of the CEO-ship (notable detail: the "uneaten bowl of yogurt and granola" that sat in front of him as this happened), he basically went on a whirlwind PR tour during which he completely rewrote Twitter's history in order to emphasize his influence: "In dozens of interviews, Dorsey completely erased [co-founder Noah] 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." Seems like a nice guy.
Al Gore once tried to buy Twitter "over copious amounts of wine and Patron tequila." I take back what I said about Jack Dorsey having feelings in a car; drunk Al Gore is the funniest tableau ever. (Forbes reports that Gore wanted to merge Twitter with his now-defunct Current TV, which would have been... interesting.)
Dick Costolo, Twitter's current CEO, used to be an improv comic, because why not.
Noah Glass "stands to make about as much" from the Twitter IPO "as Dorsey's secretary at Square." Yikes.