Twitter’s History is Filled with Backstabbing and Ridiculousness

Kidding. I think.

As Twitter faces scrutiny thanks to its upcoming IPO, we now know that the company has its own origin tale of backstabbing and betrayal, reported in the New York Times today by Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal author Nick Bilton.

It all begins with Jack Dorsey, the tech bro who is commonly named Twitter's main brain. He's the guy who allegedly came up with the idea for microblogging and Twitter; he's said to have coded it from the beginning. Dorsey, though, was actually brought onto a podcasting startup called Odeo in 2005 by an executive named Noah Glass. It was there that Dorsey came up with a very rough idea for a “service people would use to broadcast the simplest details about themselves,” and Glass took that idea and ran with it, helping create what became Twitter by making it into a conversation among friends. He even picked the weird name.

Glass soon took charge of the project, writing guidelines and a feature list about how this site would work. He added integral elements, including time stamps, to let people know when an update had been shared. Stone started exploring designs. Dorsey and another programmer, Florian Weber, did the coding. Williams pushed a bloglike template that showed people’s past messages in a stream.


The podcasting work was dropped; Twitter took precedent. Dorsey soon wanted consolidated power, though, and he conspired with his future CEO Evan Williams to force Glass out from the company. Dorsey gave Williams an ultimatum: Get rid of Glass, or I'm gone.

What Glass didn’t know was that Dorsey was the one who wanted him out. Perhaps it was because he sensed vulnerability or perhaps it was because Glass was the only person who could rightly insist that the status updater was not Dorsey’s idea alone. Whatever his reasons, Dorsey had recently met with Williams and threatened to quit if Glass wasn’t let go. And for Williams, the decision was easy. Dorsey had become the lead engineer on Twitter, and Glass’s personal problems were affecting his judgment. (For a while, portions of the company existed entirely on Glass’s I.B.M. laptop.) After conferring with the Odeo board, around 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 26, 2006, Williams asked Glass to join him for a walk to South Park. Sitting on a green bench, Williams gave his old friend an ultimatum: six months’ severance and six months’ vesting of his Odeo stock, or he would be publicly fired. Williams said the decision was his alone.


Later that night, Dorsey took Glass out for drinks and acted stunned by his firing. Only recently did Glass find out the truth.

Dorsey is set to make around $500 mil from the IPO. Glass: Nothing. Jesus. This will be a movie.

[H/T: The Atlantic Wire]