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Twitter has a long history of dysfunction

Apr 15, 2022
Illustration of twitter logo wrapped in caution tape

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Twitter — the company and the platform — is quite familiar with being in a state of turmoil. As early exec and former board member Jason Goldman told the New York Times earlier this week, "Twitter has always suffered more than its fair share of dysfunction."

Why it matters: Elon Musk's hostile takeover is the latest dramatic twist at Twitter, but the common thread from the launch of Twitter to yesterday's bid is dysfunction.

Flashback: Feuding among the four co-founders — Biz Stone, Jack Dorsey, Ev Williams and Noah Glass — marked the early days of Twitter, as Nick Bilton chronicled in the book "Hatching Twitter."

  • Glass was pushed out in 2006 after Dorsey threatened to quit if Williams didn't let Glass go. Dorsey served as CEO until two years later, when Dorsey was fired and Williams stepped into the role.
  • Williams stepped down to focus on product in 2010, before leaving in 2011. He remained on the board until 2019.
  • Dick Costolo was hired in 2009 as COO, and became CEO in 2010, leading the company through its IPO in 2013. Then Dorsey (and his long beard) returned as CEO in 2015. He resigned under pressure in 2021, bringing on the Agrawal era.

Yes, and: Turbulence is not unique to the CEO seat. Twitter's head of product position has faced high turnover, drawing comparisons to Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers.

Be smart: Twitter's share structure left the company vulnerable to a hostile takeover when it went public. Unlike Meta or Alphabet, Twitter has only one class of shares with equal voting power.

  • Musk noted that distinction during the TED conference Thursday when asked about media ownership.
  • "You got Mark Zuckerberg owning Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp with an official ownership structure that will have Mark Zuckerberg the 14th still controlling those entities," Musk said.
  • Indeed, this isn't the first attack from investors. Elliot Management bought a nearly 5% stake, worth about $1 billion, in early 2020 and aimed to oust Dorsey.

What we're watching: Like everyone else, we have a new column on our TweetDeck for @elonmusk.

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