Photo: Ev Williams
Back in September 2010, when Dick Costolo replaced cofounder Ev Williams as Twitter CEO, the company successfully seeded a narrative in the press.The story went that Williams demoted himself from running the company because he wanted to focus on product and let Costolo figure out how Twitter would make money.
In a blog post, Williams wrote, “I am most satisfied while pushing product direction. Building things is my passion, and I’ve never been more excited or optimistic about what we have to build.”
“This is why I have decided to ask our COO, Dick Costolo, to become Twitter’s CEO. Starting today, I’ll be completely focused on product strategy.”
Reporting on the change at the top of Twitter, TechCrunch headlined its story, “Dick Costolo Takes Twitter CEO Role So Evan Williams Can Focus On Product.”
In late October, The New York Times echoed this story: “Mr. Williams, who remains on the company’s board, now focuses on product strategy. He made the decision after conceiving and spending months working on the recent redesign of the Twitter Web site.”
It turns out this narrative is false.
The truth is, right now, a few months after Williams wrote a blog post saying he would be “completely focused on product strategy,” he is in fact hardly working for Twitter at all. Sources close to Twitter say that Williams isn’t working on product and hardly ever shows up at Twitter’s office.
He remains involved in the company at the board level, but that’s about it. He sometimes chips in with PR, serving as a public face of the company.
Says a source: “He’s gone, buddy.”
Perhaps the Ev-will-do-product story was spin, intended to make it look like Williams wasn’t getting ousted. Or maybe Ev actually thought he would help Twitter with product and quickly decided he didn’t like doing it as much as he thought.
If it was just spin, that’s too bad. The way Williams and Twitter’s board hired Costolo is typical. One source close to the situation described it as “entirely natural.” Williams built Twitter into a global brand. He needed a professional manager to take the job from there. Founders do this. All the time.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
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