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Nov. 29, 2021, 12:58 p.m.

He’ll keep the blue check, though: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down

His replacement, CTO Parag Agrawal, had only tweeted 10 times in 2021 before today.

There is no social platform more important to the state of contemporary journalism than Twitter.

Sure, Facebook and its various appendages still send far more traffic, but that mostly affects the news business. I’m talking about the news — the creation, evolution, and distribution of the stories we tell about the world around us right now. Twitter’s structural affordances — a real-time stream, constraints on length, baked-in virality, treating links and replies as first-class platform citizens — are particularly well attuned to the way journalists think and act. As a result, it’s where journalists — and news junkies in need of a fix — disproportionately choose to spend their time.

So a change at the top of Twitter is significant news. And that’s what happened this morning when — in a tweet, of course, though rumors had been bubbling for a couple hours — CEO Jack Dorsey announced he was stepping down, presumably to spend more time with his other company, MySpace Tom, and his beard.

His replacement, starting today, is Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal — who this morning had only 27,500 followers but is up to 70,000 at this writing. (He’ll need a lot of time to catch up to Dorsey’s 5.9 million.)

I know nothing about Agrawal other than that he came into the company as an engineer and that he…doesn’t tweet that much. Only 10 tweets so far in 2021 — that’s not counting retweets, which would add another 13, but that is counting 2 quote tweets containing only “More 👇” and “👇,” which frankly don’t merit any credit. And nearly all of his retweets are of official Twitter company accounts, Twitter employees, or his wife. He is, officially, a boring follow.

Now, judging a corporate executive by how he tweets is usually a fool’s errand. But it’s a little different when it’s a Twitter executive you’re talking about. Especially when “Twitter execs don’t like using Twitter” is a thing that has happened before, and not in a good way.

After a lengthy stretch of uninspired wandering, Twitter the company has been on a roll product-wise, pushing out new features, killing them off when they don’t work out, and generally awaking from a slumber in which the service didn’t change much. Dorsey was CEO during both the slumber and waking, so it’s hard to know how much blame or credit he deserves. His focus has certainly been more scattered than most CEOs, what with another company to run, gap-year-style life planning, and a fascination with bitcoin. Tim Cook he ain’t.

Speaking of which: You might think that Twitter would pull back on its crypto investments a bit with Dorsey out the door. (To the crypto press, he is “Bitcoin Believer Jack Dorsey,” “Bitcoin Advocate Jack Dorsey,” or “Twitter’s Pro-Bitcoin CEO Jack Dorsey.”) But Agrawal oversaw that team before today and he’s a known crypto fan; his only tweet since September (!!!) was about crypto.

Twitter shares spiked 10% as rumors of Dorsey’s departure spread this morning but then settled down; it’s flat at this writing from today’s open.

Below is a text version of Dorsey’s screenshotted announcement email. Five long years ago, Twitter was thinking about upping a tweet’s character limit from 140 to 10,000. That never happened, but the old screenshot-your-Gmail trick lets him get up to 566 words here, at least.

Hello team.

After almost 16 years of having a role at our company…from co-founder to CEO to Chair to Exec Chair to interim-CEO to CEO…I decided it’s finally time for me to leave. Why?

There’s a lot of talk about the importance of a company being “founder-led.” Ultimately I believe that’s severely limiting and a single point of failure. I’ve worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders. There are 3 reasons I believe now is the right time.

The first is Parag becoming our CEO. The board ran a rigorous process considering all options and unanimously appointed Parag. He’s been my choice for some time given how deeply he understands the company and its needs. Parag has been behind every critical decision that helped turn this company around. He’s curious, probing, rational, creative, demanding, self-aware, and humble. He leads with heart and soul, and is someone learn from daily. My trust in him as our CEO is bone deep.

The second is Bret Taylor agreeing to become our board chair. I asked Bret to join our board when I became CEO, and he’s been excellent in every way. He understands entrepreneurship, taking risks, companies at massive scale, technology, product, and he’s an engineer. All of the things the board and the company deserve right now. Having Bret in this leadership role gives me a lot of confidence in the strength of our board going forward. You have no idea how happy this makes me!

The third is all of you. We have a lot of ambition and potential on this team. Consider this: Parag started here as an engineer who cared deeply about our work and now he’s our CEO (I also had a similar path…he did it better!). This alone makes me proud. know that Parag will be able to channel this energy best because he’s lived it and knows what it takes. All of you have the potential to change the course of this company for the better. I believe this with all my heart!

Parag is CEO starting today. I’m going to serve on the board through my term (May-ish) to help Parag and Bret with the transition. And after that…I’ll leave the board. Why not stay or become chair? I believe it’s really important to give Parag the space he needs to lead. And back to my previous point, I believe it’s critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder’s influence or direction.

I want you all to know that this was my decision and I own it. It was a tough one for me, of course. I love this service and company…and all of you so much. I’m really sad…yet really happy. There aren’t many companies that get to this level. And there aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego. I know we’ll prove this was the right move.

We’ll have an all-hands meeting tomorrow at 9:05 AM Pacific to discuss it all. Until then, thank you all for the trust you’ve placed in me, and for the openness to build that trust in Parag and yourselves. I love you all.

jack

PS I’m tweeting this email. My one wish is for Twitter Inc to be the most transparent company in the world. Hi mom!

Image of Jack Dorsey by Thomas Hawk used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Nov. 29, 2021, 12:58 p.m.
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