As Elon Musk drags Twitter and its users into more and more turmoil, its founder, Jack Dorsey, offered a supportive observation from the sidelines.
“Running Twitter is hard” and “it’s easy to criticize decisions from a distance,” he posted.
The 46-year-old billionaire left the platform he co-founded in 2006 to launch what he calls a “decentralized” alternative that looks a lot like Twitter.
But while Dorsey launched Bluesky Social and continued to sing the praises of Bitcoin, Twitter users were left to follow the whims of his former favorite tweet.
Sky News reports how the founders of Twitter got to where they are today.
Self-made taxi dispatch developer
Dorsey was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1976. His father developed the spectrometer.
At 14, he developed an unusual interest in taxi dispatch software.
At 19, he enrolled at the University of Missouri-Rolla, transferred to New York University two years later, but dropped out a semester before graduation.
Instead, he moved to California, where he started his own company that sends taxis, couriers and emergency service vehicles over the Internet.
In 2000, while working as a programmer on a scheduling platform, he decided to create a messaging service to let friends know what he was working on without sitting in front of a computer.
He approached a podcasting company called Odeo, where he found a job working with Christopher ‘Biz’ Stone, Evan Williams and Noah Glass, who would later become his Twitter co-founders.
Although Dorsey was inspired by instant messaging platforms like AOL and MSN, he and Stone decided that a text-based service was a better fit for his status update idea.
Within two weeks they had built a prototype for Twitter.
After the collapse of Odeo in 2006, Dorsey returned to the idea of messaging and officially launched “Twittr” in March of that year, with himself as CEO.
Dorsey has the backing of venture capitalists, and the app has grown in popularity as celebrities sign up.
Dorsey, who was promoted from CEO to chairman of the board two years later, reportedly left work early to prioritize hobbies like yoga and fashion design.
When he was younger, he briefly dabbled in the modeling world.
In 2009, he sparked controversy after visiting Iraq with the US State Department. The purpose of the trip was to restore hope in tech after the fall of Saddam Hussein, but the trip itself was fairly uneventful.
But later that year, when the Green Revolution happened, Dorsey agreed to reschedule the maintenance of Twitter’s servers so protesters could still communicate.
The move was seen as a violation of policy given President Barack Obama’s pledge that the United States would not interfere in Iraqi affairs. The following year, Dorsey traveled to Russia with a State Department delegation.
In 2011, he invited Mr. Obama to Twitter’s first-ever town hall, where he had to remind him to keep his answers to 140 characters.
Two years later, even though Twitter was not founded with profit in mind, it became a public company, making Dorsey a billionaire overnight.
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Dorsey returned on an interim basis in 2015 after the company’s successor CEO, Dick Costolo, announced his resignation, but made the role permanent in October.
Meanwhile, back in 2010, Dorsey began splitting his time between Twitter and a new venture, Square, which turned smartphones and tablets into debit card readers for small businesses.
But it began to face losses of up to $100m (£79m) as rivals launched competing products.
Dorsey renamed Square “Block” in 2021 to express his interest in blockchain, and in 2022 officially awarded himself the title of “Block Head”.
Back in 2016 with Twitter, the 140 character limit was actually raised since it no longer included links or photos in the count. The decision was made to attract new users – as the number of daily tweets has dropped globally.
A year later, it increased again – doubling it to 280 characters.
Technology moves faster than policy
In 2018, Twitter and other social media platforms began to have to answer to the US government.
The first time Dorsey testified alongside then-Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, she was asked about interference in the 2016 presidential election.
After hours of questioning, Dorsey tweeted a photo of his heart rate. The platform was also accused of anti-conservative bias, saw its stock price drop and made the decision to ban all political ads the following year.
During his tenure, Dorsey met with President Donald Trump, who expressed concern about being purged of his followers.
Dorsey slapped a misinformation warning label on some of Trump’s tweets during the 2020 campaign and permanently froze his account after the Capitol riots in January 2021.
Trump built his own platform, Truth Social, while Dorsey stood by the ban, but expressed concern that it set a “dangerous precedent.”
He also appeared before Congress twice as Twitter boss — once in October 2020 and again the following month.
In front of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee for the first time, he joined Facebook and Google executives to answer questions about laws that protect tech companies from being sued for content generated on their platforms.
Dorsey said changing it would “disrupt the way we communicate on the internet.”
The following month, he joined Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to present evidence on how content will be policed during the 2020 election.
When the new crown epidemic emerged in 2020, the founder of Twitter pledged to donate $1 billion (£790 million) of his total wealth to the rescue plan.
When the Delta variant hit India the following year, he donated £15m (£11.8m) to support projects there.
The pandemic has derailed plans he announced in 2019 to move to Africa. He stated that the African continent will “define the future (especially Bitcoin!)”.
Musk takes over Twitter
Dorsey’s relationship with Musk predates his ill-fated acquisition.
In 2020, following reports that Elliott Management, one of Twitter’s investors, was trying to replace Dorsey as CEO, Musk tweeted his support, saying he has a “good heart.” .
In return, Dorsey said Musk is one of his favorite Twitter users and that his updates are “focused on addressing existing issues and sharing his thoughts openly.”
The founder added that he had enjoyed the “ups and downs” of Musk’s use of his site — something he would later regret — to which Musk replied: “Twitter is awesome!”
They are both passionate about cryptocurrencies, with Dorsey describing Bitcoin (or the “B Word,” as he calls it) as “straight-up activism against … an exclusive financial system.”
In late 2021, Dorsey posted an employee email on his account announcing he was leaving Twitter, claiming he wanted to keep the company away from its “founder and founder.”
Musk, considered the richest man in the world, started buying Twitter shares in early 2022.
By April, he was the largest shareholder with a 9.1% stake.
He was invited to join the board and, despite initially rejecting the role, then offered to buy the entire company for $44bn (£34.5bn).
By July, Musk had said he wanted out of the deal because Twitter had failed to deliver on its promise to crack down on spam accounts.
The move sparked legal action against Musk — who caved in and decided to proceed just weeks before the trial was due to begin in Delaware, closing the deal in November.
Musk first fired half of Twitter’s staff, including the CEO, sparking mass resignations.
After months of messy work, he regretted buying the platform and made several messy changes, relinquished the position of CEO.
the beginning of the blue sky
Meanwhile, Dorsey has been developing Twitter’s successor, Bluesky Social.
He kicked off the project in 2019, but soft-launched it to beta in late 2022.
He’s rolling out invitation-only memberships after seeing Twitter grow at dizzying rates.
Bluesky is a “decentralized” platform that Dorsey hopes will prevent the kind of hostile concentration of power we’ve seen with Musk.
He retains a 2.4% stake in Twitter.