Read: June 2023
Inspiration: Frequent user of Twitter, but never knew the history of the company and how it got to its place at the center of social media today
Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.
“Hatching Twitter”, published in 2014 by author and journalist Nick Bilton, is a captivating account of the tumultuous early years of the social media giant. Bilton delves into the intriguing story of Twitter’s founding and the power struggles that ensued among its co-founders. The book explores the personal and professional dynamics between Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, Evan Williams, and Noah Glass, shedding light on their conflicting visions for the platform and the internal battles for control. Bilton unveils the rollercoaster journey of Twitter’s rise to prominence, from its humble beginnings as a side project to its explosive growth and global impact. The book also delves into the intense pressure faced by the co-founders, the impact of investors and external forces, and the challenges of scaling the platform while maintaining its unique character. “Hatching Twitter” is a compelling narrative that provides an inside look into the fascinating story behind one of the most influential social media platforms of our time.
Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.
Evan Williams is one of 4 Twitter co-founders, from Nebraska and moved to SF area with love of computers, taught self to program through 90s, coincidentally coined term Blogger in 1999 as part of side element of workplace software he built (portmanteau of web and blog), Blogger enable user to keep track of work/updates, grow in users, became focus and had small team by 2002–had 1 million blogs, Ev did not believe in censoring posts even as received complaints, Noah Glass live next to Evan and saw his profile, 2003 Blogger bought by Google, Noah joined working on audio blog, Ev invest some of Google money into Noah’s new company called Odeo for podcasting—Ev become CEO in exchange for more funding, Jack Dorsey lived in same area and knew of Ev and saw him in coffee shop—applied for Odeo job, Jack was a rebel/anarchist—former masseusse turned hacker, always experimented but got work done, Biz Stone grew up poor in wealthy Boston but always into computers—worked at blogging company 1999-01, heard of Ev, Biz worked at Google until late 2005, had contacted Ev 2003 to work for Blogger but when Ev left Google 2004 Biz wanted to leave soon after and joined Odeo sept 2005, late 2005 launch Odeo to public though Ev wanted to hold off but Noah insist, allow people to create and record audio files then share on site for free, got $5mm in venture Aug 2005 but Noah and Ev bicker, Feb 2006 Jack tell Noah he wanted to leave Odeo and Odeo was a mess, lots of infighting Noah and Ev over running the biz, then Apple announce iPod to have podcasts via iTunes as massive blow, Jack said he wanted to do fashion but also had long been thinking of a site for people to share their current status in real time—told Noah idea and Noah liked it (connecting people), told Ev and liked idea as Odeo needed pivot, Biz like as well, post statuses via text msg, Noah came up with Twitter name early 2006 flipping dictionary, then all four agree to pursue protoype with small Odeo team and see what happens, all excited by idea, initially “Twttr”, Jack and Biz lead development with Florian as main engineer back end, Jack front end, Biz design feel/look, Noah do logo, March 21 2006 after 2 weeks of work Jack posted first “just setting up my twttr” and employees join in with time stamped chronological status update, Noah accidentally revealed project drunk at a party and signed people up—Jack and Ev furious, Noah also got press credit, Ev had considered spinning Twitter out of Odeo and Noah run it but Noah became more unhinged and all begin to doubt him, Jack said would leave if Noah not fired by Ev so Noah soon did leave, summer ’06 only at 4500 users and not getting much traction—Jack ran with Biz while Ev did work on other ideas, was a bit chaotic and no real controls—site has lots of bugs, confusing to new users, SXSW 2007 really spark growth as pass 100k users and then formally designate Jack as CEO, Ev own 70%, Jack 20%, Biz and Goldman 3% each, Ev Jack Biz co-founders, June 2007 Yahoo want to buy Twitter, had no revenue at the time and no real biz model but 250k users, Jack explained vision as a utility, Yahoo offer $12mm (said lowest would take $80mm), decline and go raise venture money, July 2007 raise from Union Square Ventures $5mm at $20mm value, but site kept breaking with new users, users even boycotted b/c went offline so much, but still rapidly grow, “@” use to indicate talking to person used first Nov 2006, hashtags originate on Flickr but grow on Twitter, Ev grew impatient with site outages and had a hard time molding Jack as CEO, Jack became more of a socialite and Ev thought didn’t work hard enough given issues, Ev and Jack had fundamentally diff views on Twitter purpose as for you to share your status vs you to view others and see what others are doing (Jack was you-centric), Jack mobile focused vs Ev web, Ev confronted Jack on his job and relationship broke from there, new venture round ’08 but Jack and Ev go behind backs to be indep, Jack thought secured $100mm value but Ev had other deal at $80mm for $18mm raised June 2008, Fred Wilson was USV board member and Bijan from Spark—begin to see internal rifts and want Jack out, but Biz threaten to quit if Jack out as CEO, Jack suspect things awry, Ev to be CEO instead of Jack but Biz got Jack 3 month ultimatum to fix, but then Bijan accidentally sent email to Jack with plans to oust him no matter what, Jack take this and still think could revive company—focus on role in ’08 elections, however before 3 month window Jack was fired Oct 2008 and given symbolic chairman role as Ev take over, Jack furious (thought had company under control and now backstabbed), one of first falls after firing was to Mark Zuckerberg (Fred and Bijan had concern before firing but didnt act), same time FB had been trying to buy Twitter and Zuckerberg wooing Jack but now had to woo others and Jack backchannel, wanted $500mm, Ev think FB would destroy Twitter and decline offer which Zuck didn’t like—now want to hire Jack, and compete with Twitter more, Jack pursue other ideas incl founding Square but still angry—even create myth for press of Twitter founding ignoring Ev and others, Feb 2009 raise new capital still no revenue, Peter Fenton join board (Benchmark) and big Jack supporter, Twitter big in Obama election and March 2009 explode with help of Oprah and Ashton Kutcher and CNN, Ev like on Oprah for her first tweet, hundreds of thousands of new users, Jack and Noah feel slighted, Jack continue working with press, Time 100 come out with only Ev and Biz included from Twitter which infuriated Jack further, Iranian revolution 2009 throw Twitter into middle of politics and see power over overhrowing Ahmadinejad in corrupt election—scandal as had maintenance which DoD staffer asked Twitter to delay b/c of Iran events and that leaked (made Twitter look political), later 2009 raise $100mm at $1bn value (still no revenue), late 09 bring on Dick Costello as COO to Ev (Dick was a friend and former comedian, sold a company to google), in media portray Jack as mastermind of twitter while internally Ev control, frustrate all inside twitter, Jack also use twitter email to help Square, early 2010 Dick Costello and Ev shut down Jack’s email, Jack increasingly emulated Steve Jobs at Square (same vernacular, dress, hiring), media embrace Jack as 2.0, then 2010 seniors at Twitter grow frustrated with Ev indecision and speak to Jack on it, Pres Medvedev come to twitter HQ to tweet—site increasingly target of hackers as grow, servers still would go down (nearly down for Medvedev’s first tweet), Costello go to Jack, board increasingly see Ev not making decision to grow rev and profits, Ev oblivious, plan summer 2010 to oust Ev and Goldman, make Costello CEO and being Jack back, even original anti-Jack investors think Ev time up, Campbell (Ev CEO coach intro’d by Fenton) give news to Ev but let slip that Costello to replace which angered Ev (supposed to come later), then chaos as board consider slow down and search for CEO and let Costello go (Ev wanted this), then go back to Costello CEO and Ev out, board make their move and Dick CEO and Jack back but also exec chairman (push Ev even further), then communicate Ev to not have operating role (beyond whay Ev thought), orchestrated by Jack and Fenton to essentially kick Ev out, Biz back Ev to keep as director of product and get wish for now, initial annoucement to company Oct 4 2010 of Ev step down not mention Jack back, Jack rejoin March 2011—media blitz and increasingly Jobs like, hailed as heroic return, Ev step aside soon after and Biz follow in June (no longer day to day), Jack embrace celebrity and many think he was CEO not Dick, Dick well-liked internally, $10bn value 2012, public Nov 2013 under Dick’s guidance (up 73% debut), Jack and Ev both billionaires, Noah profiled sparsely, Jack pushed out essentially all those aligned with Ev