In this photo illustration, former US President Donald Trump’s archived Twitter account is displayed on a phone screen with the Twitter logo in the background.
Sheldon Cooper | Light flare | Getty Images
A decade ago, from Twitter the future looked bright. The company was enjoying a flood of funding in the social media space, eventually leading to an IPO in 2013 that raised $1.8 billion.
Today, the company is back in private hands. And they happen to be in the hands of Elon Musk, the richest person in the world and one of the app’s most prominent provocateurs.
It’s a huge moment. Twitter has become a key place where people can debate, joke, and pontificate in their own political, sports, tech, and financial circles. It also serves as a platform that gives voice to the voiceless, helping protesters organize and speak out in repressed regimes around the world.
In recent years, however, Twitter and rival social networks like Facebook have been at the center of controversies over the spread of fake news and misinformation, sometimes leading to intimidation and violence.
Investors worried about Twitter as a business. Business was generally unprofitable, struggled to keep pace Google and Facebook, and have often killed popular products without real explanation.
What follows is a brief history of Twitter, which, despite its many flaws, is one of the most iconic companies to emerge from Silicon Valley in the past 20 years.
In March, Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams created Twitter, which was originally a side project spun off from podcasting tool Odeo. That month, Dorsey sent the first Tweet that said, “just setting up my twttr”.
In July, Twitter received a $100,000 Series A funding round led by Union Square Ventures. The app’s popularity began to explode after it was heavily promoted by the tech community at the annual South by Southwest conference.
Dorsey stepped down as CEO in October and was replaced by Williams. According to journalist Nick Bilton’s book “Hatching Twitter,” Twitter’s board fired Dorsey over concerns about the executive’s management style and public bragging.
Twitter’s popularity continued to soar, leading to a high-profile appearance by Williams on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show alongside celebrity Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher will also write about Williams and Stone as part of Time Magazine Time number 100. Twitter was now a mainstream phenomenon.
Twitter has reached space, with NASA astronaut Timothy Creamer sending the first Tweeter live from the outer orbit. Behind the scenes, however, management issues continued with the resignation of Williams as CEO, replaced by Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo.
Twitter became an essential social media tool used during the Arab Spring, the wave of anti-government protests across Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Protesters have used the site to post reports and organize. As noted by the Pew Research Center, Twitter’s role in “spreading breaking news” was not “limited to Arab uprisings – the death of Whitney Houston, for example, was announced on Twitter 55 minutes before until the AP confirms the story.”
Twitter’s reach has grown to 200 million active users. Barack Obama used the “platform to publicly declare his victory in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, with a Tweet that was viewed approximately 25 million times on our platform and widely distributed offline in print and broadcast media. “, according to documents filed by the company.
Twitter went public in November. The combined wealth of Williams, Dorsey and Costolo reached approximately $4 billion.
“I think we have a huge set of thoughts and strategies to increase the slope of the growth curve,” Costolo told CNBC at the time. “I would view some of them as tactics, some of them as broader strategies, in service of what I’ve called bridging the gap between massive Twitter awareness and deep platform engagement. -form.”
Slowing user growth has led to several stock declines and analyst downgrades. Twitter also called 2014 the year of the “selfie”.
Compared to rivals like Google, Facebook and even LinkedIn, Twitter was starting to look like the runt of the internet litter. Twitter was still not profitable as its advertising business struggled heavily against its biggest competitors. Dorsey would also return as the company’s CEO, while retaining the top job at his other company, Square (now To block).
Rumors began circulating that Twitter was looking for an acquisition, with Salesforce as a potential suitor. Meanwhile, Twitter and Facebook have come under fire for their roles in allowing prominent users like Donald Trump, who would win the US presidential election that year, to spread misleading information without consequence.
“Having the president-elect on our service using him as a direct line of communication lets everyone see what they’re thinking right now,” Dorsey said at the time. “We’re definitely entering a new world where everything is on the surface and we can all see it in real time and we can have conversations about it.”
For a while, Twitter seemed to be on the rise. Its stock eventually tended to rise as the company’s finances improved. Meanwhile, Trump as president has continued to use Twitter as a megaphone. According to Twitter’s own data, “Trump was the most-tweeted global leader in the world and the United States” that year, CNBC reported.
Dorsey and Sheryl Sandberg, then Facebook’s chief operating officer, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee about alleged interference by Russian-linked actors in the 2016 election. Trump and his fellow Republicans have increasingly more vocal about alleged political biases on Twitter and other social media sites.
“In fact, from a simple business perspective and to serve the public conversation, Twitter has an incentive to keep all voices on the platform,” Dorsey said at the time.
Analysts have found correlations between President Trump’s voracious use of Twitter and various markets, including gold, underscoring Twitter’s cultural power. Trump met with Dorsey – a Twitter spokesperson said ‘Jack had a constructive meeting with the President of the United States today at the President’s invitation’.
“They discussed Twitter’s commitment to protecting the health of public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. election and ongoing efforts to respond to the opioid crisis,” the spokesperson said.
As Covid-19 spread across the world, the spread of misinformation dominated the conversation online. And Twitter continued to struggle to grow its business. The service was also hacked that year, and criminals gained access to more than a dozen high profile accounts, including those controlled by Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos and Musk.
Twitter has permanently banned Trump for the president’s inflammatory comments during the US Capitol riots in January that the company said could lead to “further incitement to violence.” Trump would allege that Twitter employees “coordinated with Democrats and the radical left to remove my account from their platform, to silence me.” Later, Dorsey suddenly resigned as CEO and was replaced by Parag Agrawal, the company’s Chief Technology Officer.
Musk took over Twitter after a long legal row that reportedly culminated in a lawsuit this week in the Delaware Court of Chancery. The You’re here The CEO agreed in April to pay $44 billion for Twitter, but then tried to walk away from the deal. He changed course and chose to continue, walking into the company’s San Francisco offices on Wednesday with what appeared to be a porcelain sink in his hands.
“Enter the Twitter headquarters – let him in!” he tweetedwith a video of his entrance.
Musk immediately began making changes, firing Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and director of legal policy Vijaya Gadde.
LOOK: Billionaire Elon Musk walks into Twitter HQ, sink in hand