I imagine the vast majority of the newly reported 271 million monthly Twitter users are unaware of the dramas that have occurred behind closed doors since that business’s birth in 2006. Considering the platform’s absolute essence is about transparency and communication, over the years Twitter and its growing army of so called founders and key players have done fairly well to play down the politics.
In 2010 Dick Costolo (former FeedBurner and Google) took over from Evan Williams as the CEO of Twitter; a relatively risky move considering he was the first person who wasn’t directly involved in the platform’s birth to play a major role in the San Francisco based company. Perhaps it was for this very reason that Costolo was drafted in; a fresh pair of eyes untainted by politics and schoolboy jibes. The Wall Street Journal put it very nicely this week, “Twitter needs profits but mostly it needs a cult leader”.
Costolo is, in relation to his peers (The Zuckerbegs of this world) a moderately quiet CEO. No public wish list of start-ups he’s aiming to buy-out for record amounts of money; the ‘my d*ck is bigger than yours’ mentality that seems to have tainted Silicon Valley in recent years. That’s why when Costolo announced on Twitter the other day he’d be doing a live Q&A, a childlike excitement took over; (it’s similar to when a couple is having an argument on a train… you pretend not to listen, but in reality the only thing that could make the occasion better is some overpriced popcorn and a can of coke. My excitement-slash-trepidation was seemingly also shared by some of Twitter’s most influential (and dare I say bitterest) past / present stakeholders.
Consider this, an old boss of yours calls you up after years and says, “Oh hey, I’m inviting a load of current and ex-employees of mine into a room to ask me anything they want”… #PartyTime. Of course there were the usual topic strands in last night’s Q&A with Costolo: privacy, reporting, GIFs, ads… but there were also some gems hidden amongst the ‘chat’.
These questions become so utterly riddled with subtext when you know the story that festers underneath this online relationship. As mentioned, few people know the politics that lie at the bottom of Twitter. If you are interested in Twitter’s creation and the people it left in its wake, then I would thoroughly recommend Nick Bilton’s ‘Hatching Twitter‘. It’s the closest I think we’ll ever get to a Jeremy Kyle special.