“Hatching Twitter” by Nick Bilton

How X Became Twitter

How Twitter started from “Hatching Twitter” by Nick Bilton

Parker Klein ✌️
6 min readJan 29, 2024

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A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal.

#Founders

@Ev

Evan Williams

Started Pyra Labs to increase workplace productivity.

Released a diary website and called it Blogger in 1999 for people without any computer-programming knowledge to create a web log, or blog.

Ev had a vision for Blogger, where anyone could have their own blog, the equivalent of their own online newspaper.

If you give a microphone to enough people, someone will tell something into it that will offend someone else.

“Push-button publishing for the people” was Blogger’s motto.

Ev realized it would be impossible to police all of the posts that we shared on the site, so as a rule, he opted for an anything-goes mentality.

Ev started making enough money, through ads and donations from people who used the site, to gradually hire a small gaggle of programmers.

In 2002, they had nearly a million people's blogs from around the world, with close to ninety million blog posts.

Ev was determined to see Blogger grow, to allow anyone with a computer to publish anything they wanted. To disrupt the publishing world. To disrupt the world in general. One line of code at a time.

@Noah

Noah Glass

Building a startup is like building a house. The business plan is the architect. The back-end code is the houses plumbing and electrical. The desktop version is the houses driveway and garage. The web site design is like the interior design.

Blogger was acquired by Google to place ads next to people’s blogs.

Noah brought the idea of Odeo to Ev to invest in it originally calling it Citizenware.

Noah is the opposite of Ev. ADD, ADHD, or something of the like.

Ev invested another 200k on top buying out the existing investors for millions and became CEO of Odeo.

@Jack

Jack Dorsey

Born with a speech impediment.

Loves messenger bags.

Loved his nose ring and covered it up with a bandaid rather than take it out for an employer.

Has Odaemon!? tattooed upside down on his left forearm covered up by a black S which signifies a person who lives behind the curtain and has little influence.

Was originally a software developer for Odeo.

@Biz

Biz Stone

Moved to California to work with Ev on Blogger after it had been acquired by Google.

Very afraid of flying.

Left $2 million behind at Google to work with Ev at Odeo.

#Noah

People used Blogger to share news. To tell stories. To disrupt media.

AOL invented the “away message” for people to note if they were available, in a meeting, or just busy.

Jack has the status app idea to help connect people and make them feel less alone.

A whole new level of connection.

They were going to need a lot of people and explaining what this is was going to be very difficult.

A hackathon is a day-long event where everyone cranks on something valuable to the company, but not what you’re “supposed” to be working on. What should you work on? More or less, anything you want. It should be conceivably related to Odeo — something we would consider shipping.

Ev’s prompt for the hackathon: “If you were to start a new company today, or reinvent Odeo, what would you build?”

Why wouldn’t you use voice? Well, you could, but via text message, people can send their status from a noisy club, where it’s almost impossible to make a voice call.

The light chirping sound made by certain birds.
A similar sound, especially light, tremulous speech or laughter.
Agitation or excitement; flutter.
Twitter

Ev set up Twitlog using old Blogger code. First status: setting up my twitlog. Second status: hmmm…will it work?

Jack's original concept was only one status message at a time and all past ones would vanish forever.

Ev argued for a stream format, showing up chronologically like a blog.

Jack sent the first official Twitter update on 3/21/06 at 11:50 am. “just setting up my twttr.”

Tony Stubblebine was a senior Odeo engineer.

That was it. A spark of life. Tweets.

What’s your status?

#Jack

Ev bought back Odeo from the investors with the money he had made for selling Blogger.

“From excitement and bold moves, great things often happen.” — Ev Williams

Twitter gained less than a hundred new users at their launch.

Ev always gave people creative freedom to explore ideas and people always wanted to work for him.

Ev returned $5 million of his Google earnings to Odeo investors and invested $1 million into Twitter.

Jack saw Twitter as a place to eat “what I’m doing.” Ev saw Twitter as more like a mini blogging product.

Ev was seeing it as a view into what was happening in the world.

They had no revenue or business model at 100k sign ups but that would be the job of the new CEO.

Twitter had 4 priorities: performance, usability, development efficiencies, and costs.

160 characters was the maximum length of a text message. 140 allowed Twitter to include someone’s username.

Ev got 70% because he funded is. Jack got 20% as CEO. Biz and Goldman got 3% and the rest went to current engineers and new hires.

They took money from Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures because he didn’t care about the business model. That will come. They’re focused on making Twitter a better, more reliable and robust service. $5 million at 20M valuation.

Posts weren’t showing up in the timeline. Accounts were disappearing. The site was off-line for hours or sometimes more than a day at a time. The servers were collapsing.

Twitter was both egotistical and about others. It was about you and what’s happening around you. The two together is what made Twitter different.

Twitter was paying cell phone carriers tens of thousands of dollars in SMS bills each month.

Relationships bend until they break.

Twitter's outages invented the fail whale.

#Ev

“It seems to me, there are three reasons to sell a company,” Ev wrote in an e-mail to the board outlining why they should decline Facebook’s offer. 1. The price is good enough or a value that the company will be in the future. (“We’ve often said Twitter is a billion dollar company. I think it’s many, many times that,” Ev wrote.) 2. There’s an imminent and very real threat from a competitor. (Nothing is going to “pose a credible threat of taking Twitter to zero.”) 3. You have a choice to go and work for someone great. (“I don’t use [Facebook). And I have many concerns about their people and how they do business.”).

Some people are destined for greatness; others fall up a hill to get there.

“People don’t invent things on the internet. They Simple expand on an idea that already exists.” — Ev Williams

Ev always wanted people to be able to say whatever came to mind.

It wasn’t about the money for Ev, it was about giving people a voice.

Never hire your friends.

Steve Jobs referred to himself as an editor.

Ali Rowghani was frustrated by Ev’s slow decision-making.

#Dick

Money rarely changes people; it often just magnifies who they really are.

“In the center of every big city in the world, surrounded by noise and teeming millions of people, are lonely people. Loneliness is not so much where you are, but instead your state of mind.” — Commander Hadfield

#UseTwos ✌️

Use code “baller”

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Parker Klein ✌️

Former @Google @Qualcomm @PizzaNova. Building the best place to write, remember & share *things*: Twos (www.TwosApp.com?code=baller)