So what is Twitter now?
Photo: Alexander Shatov/Unsplash

So what is Twitter now?

Source Code

Good morning! This Monday, Twitter is in focus mode, Activision Blizzard won’t be at the Game Awards, and the State Department was hacked by someone using NSO Group spyware.

The new new Twitter

It’s been quite a seven-day stretch for Twitter employees, huh? Let’s recap:

  • Jack Dorsey announced last Monday that he was stepping down as CEO, effective immediately. He also plans to leave Twitter’s board, which means that as of “May-ish,” when his term ends, he’ll no longer be an employee of Twitter.
  • Parag Agrawal is now Twitter’s CEO, after previously being CTO. Bret Taylor is now the chairman of Twitter’s board.
  • And Agrawal, evidently not one to waste time, announced a big reorganization of the company on Friday.

In Agrawal’s first note to his new team, he said what CEOs usually say: You’re all great, and I’m just here to help. But he also intimated that maybe Twitter hasn’t always helped itself. “Our critical challenge,” he wrote, “is how we work to execute against [our strategy] and deliver results.”

Twitter’s new leadership says a lot about its new strategy. It’s now working in a “general manager” model, essentially shaping the company’s core operations around three people.

  • Kayvon Beykpour runs all things consumer. He’s been a strong product leader at Twitter, and has made the company ship faster and better than it has in a long time.
  • Bruce Falck is in charge of revenue. He’s a longtime ad guy, and has a tough job ahead of him: making Twitter more money in a moment where privacy is paramount, tracking is harder than ever and the dumbest thing you can do is act anything like Facebook.
  • Nick Caldwell now leads the core tech team. He was previously overseeing a lot of Twitter’s consumer-facing engineering, but is still relatively new to the company; he started there last June.
  • Two big-name execs, design head Dantley Davis and engineering chief Michael Montano, are both leaving the company. Davis in particular has been a divisive force inside the company — he’s a hard-driving guy in an overwhelmingly nice company — but Twitter said only that there “wasn’t space” for the two guys in the new structure.

This is all about focus. Twitter, like a lot of tech companies, has at times in the past been hamstrung by a fairly flat hierarchy and a lot of overlapping teams. One way to solve that is to put fewer people in charge. This new setup also gives Agrawal a clear inner circle as he adapts to the new gig.

Twitter has a lot to do in the next couple of years. The old regime made big promises earlier this year: The company aims to “double development velocity” in the rate it ships products, more than double its daily active users and more than double its revenue. (You’ll notice these goals map fairly neatly to the three people at the top of the org chart, by the way.) And it has to do all of that while continuing to work on fighting misinformation, helping new users get situated and making the platform less … cesspool-ish in general.

But what it really needs is a hit. Sure, more users equals more ad views equals more revenue. But Twitter is desperately searching for a second killer app: its AWS, its Instagram, its Android. Finding 100 million new Twitter users is going to be tough without a breakthrough new hit.

  • Twitter’s certainly trying to find it: Twitter Blue still feels like an experiment, but Subscription Twitter could be a big deal. There’s also the newsletter push through Revue, and some other creator-focused tools.
  • Spaces seems like Twitter’s best chance, though. It seems to be winning the social audio wars (sorry, Clubhouse), and with things like ticketed events, there’s a pretty clear path for Spaces to be big.
  • And here’s a wild card: crypto. Agrawal has been behind a lot of Twitter’s crypto-focused work, and right now all you have to do is say “NFTs” and your stock price goes up.

Remember in 2011, when Larry Page said Google would be putting “more wood behind fewer arrows”? That meant reorganizing to simplify teams and product lines, and preventing the company from spreading itself too thin. My guess is that’s what’s next for Twitter as well. Dorsey was a deliberator, an experimenter, a … maybe not always super-focused leader. Agrawal seems to be signaling that it’s time to rein things in so Twitter can speed them up.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

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People are talking

Rebranding gives a company another shot at saying what it’s all about, said Brentos Fernandez, partner at VC firm Listen:

  • “When handled correctly, it is a realignment of your promise to the consumer.”

Elon Musk and SpaceX are quickly becoming too powerful, the European Space Agency's Josef Aschbacher said:

  • “You have one person owning half of the active satellites in the world... The rest of the world including Europe... is just not responding quick enough.”

FTX U.S.’ Tristan Yver thinks NFTs can make learning about crypto less scary:

  • “NFTs are the first time a lot of people create a connection with cryptocurrency and blockchain.”

Amazon isn’t good at personalizing the shopping experience, said ecommerce consultant Juozas Kaziukenas:

  • “Amazon knows what I buy, how often I buy, what I search for. But decades after it launched, it can’t answer a simple question: What would Juozas like to buy?”

TechNet’s Carl Holshouser thinks Congress will get chip funding in this year:

  • “We have received, in the last week, a high level of confidence … that they believe that this will get done.”

Coming this week

Twitter reopened its San Francisco and New York offices today. It’s the second time this year that the company is opening its doors again.

The fourth annual Space Summit is happening tomorrow. Morgan Stanley is hosting the event in New York.

Venture Summit also starts tomorrow. Tons of VCs are expected to speak at the three-day event.

Crypto leaders are expected to testify on Wednesday. That includes Circle’s Jeremy Allaire, Bitfury’s Brian Brooks and Coinbase’s Alesia Haas.

The Game Awards are on Thursday. The invite-only event will take place at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

In other news

The Alliance for the Future of the Internet isn’t all sorted out. The White House is expected to introduce plans for the group, but digital rights leaders and government officials said they’re confused about the proposal and want to refine it.

It was a wild weekend for crypto. Tech stocks are down thanks to omicron-related fears, but crypto is even more volatile right now: nearly every coin, from bitcoin to ethereum to dogecoin, dropped big over the weekend before stabilizing a bit.

Trump's tech company said it raised $1 billion. The Trump Media & Technology Group framed the fundraising as "an important message to Big Tech that censorship and political discrimination must end."

Activision Blizzard won’t be at the Game Awards. This follows Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all saying that they are reevaluating their relationship with the company in light of the allegations against the CEO and reports of toxicity in the workplace.

Halo Infinite looks like a winner. The game officially lands on Wednesday, but early reviews of its campaign mode are incredibly positive. Maybe clear your weekend just in case?

The U.S. is trying to fight ransomware attacks, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone told The New York Times. It’s the first time the country has publicly said the military is taking action against those sorts of attacks, but he wouldn’t say exactly what the U.S. is doing to combat them.

State Department leaders were hacked using NSO Group spyware. An NSO spokesperson told Reuters that if one of its customers had used NSO software to do this they would be “terminated permanently and legal actions will take place."

Erica Brescia left GitHub. Brescia’s been the company’s COO for over two years.

Alex Spinelli joined Google as a VP. He’s a former Amazon exec who worked on Alexa, and most recently worked at the chatbot company LivePerson.

25 days of code

Some people want a puppy for Christmas. Others want a bunch of coding problems. Luckily, there’s a gift for that.

TCGPlayer architect Eric Wastl created Advent of Code: an Advent calendar of programming puzzles for people of all coding levels. They can be done in any programming language, and a new one drops every day until Dec. 25. Merry code-mas!

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