In March 2006, Jack Dorsey, then an undergraduate at the University of New York, took to his newly created platform “twttr” and typed out “”just setting up my twttr”. It was the very first “Tweet” on the platform that would be renamed Twitter some six months later. It was seen by no one, given he was the only user at the time, but since then the platform has become one of the most widely used social media platforms in the world. It’s been highly influential, controversial, the source of much humour, used as a highly public political platform, has been used to raise awareness about social issues, and perhaps most crucial to its success, allows users to feel more “connected” to even high profile users than the likes of Facebook thanks to short-form replies that allow users to quickly interact with each other. To some it is a force for good, driving social change and publicising important causes, to some it is a cesspit that concentrates political extremes on all sides of the spectrum, to others it is a source of good to-the-point humour. For many, it is all three. Yet some 15 years after he typed those first five words, CEO Jack Dorsey is now stepping down, and the question on every Twitter users lips is – what happens next?
In a heartfelt email to all Twitter staff, which he made clear would be made public on Twitter as he strongly believes in the company being the “most transparent company in the world”, Dorsey explained his departure – “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,” adding “I’ve worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders.” He will be replaced at the helm by Twitter’s chief technology offer Parag Agrawal. Relatively little is known about Agrawal, who until this morning had just 44k followers – though he’s added another 100k today alone – compared to Dorsey’s 5.9 million. Born in India, he has a PhD in computer science from Stanford University, so it’s safe to say he’s a highly intelligent guy and arguably the ideal man for the job when you consider he joined Twitter in 2011 and rose the level of CTO in just six years. Little is known about his political views, always the first question people ask when it comes to how Twitter is run, but in a 2020 interview with the MIT Technology Review, he said “”Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation … focus less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed.” In short, the mantra that many more sensible political Twitter users have repeated over the years – you have a right to freedom of speech, you do not have the right to a platform.
Relating this to the dance music world, nothing much will change – DJs and producers will still engage with fans, people will share short videos of shows they’ve attended, humour around the scene will still go viral. Perhaps one area that does need addressing, as it does on Twitter in general, is their lack of customer service and support in the wake of Covid, with a multitude users seeing their accounts suspended for seemingly no reason, and customer support widely being reported as non-existent. While not necessarily a problem for higher profile DJs with the fabled “blue tick”, smaller names have used the platform as a support and help network in the wake of the devastation caused to the scene by the pandemic, and such endeavours have been made more difficult or even impossible due to Twitter’s unique way of communicating good causes.
Whatever the platform’s future holds however, it’s certain that Jack Dorsey will be in for a comfortable future, with a net-worth of some $11 billion, though worth noting this isn’t a criticism he has a decent track record of giving money to good causes, He will also no doubt remain a key part of the debate over the role social media plays in our lives, while his replacement will no doubt quickly join him at the head of that table.
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