The decisive leadership of a founder could be what’s necessary to bring Twitter’s value to the masses. And apparently that’s what it’s going to get, as Re/Code reports Twitter has made the decision to bring its co-founder and Square chief Jack Dorsey back as CEO. He’d been serving as Twitter’s interim CEO for four months since Dick Costolo chose to step down.
The announcement could be made as soon as tomorrow, and head of revenue Adam Bain reportedly refused the CEO job as long as Dorsey wanted it. After months of confusion at Twitter among prevalent feelings its product must change to embrace mainstream usage, Dorsey could rally morale with the mandate only available to someone who started the company.
Founders are simply afforded a special trust from employees. Dorsey is widely credited with the spark to create a public microblogging service. The belief that his ideas got Twitter this far could bolster confidence in Dorsey making drastic product updates. While Twitter has become immensely popular and important to a user base of 316 million, it may take changes that anger its early adopters in order to bring Twitter’s value to the masses.
A CEO installed from outside or who joined later in the company’s history could be accused of meddling with the fundamental identity of Twitter. But since Dorsey built that identity, he might have the authority to modify it.
Whether that’s altering the reverse chronological timeline, what’s counted in a tweet’s 140 characters, or how live events are followed, Twitter needs to make itself a daily staple for more than news junkies and Internet people. Its advertising model depends on it. For many, Twitter still feels like an unharnessable river of information or shouting into a black hole. It’s hard to know who to follow. It’s even harder to know who to unfollow. And unless you have some soapbox or level of IRL celebrity, tweeting to a tiny audience can seem like a waste of time.
This is all hurting Twitter’s growth. New users are scared, and older users got burned and churned. In the first six months of this year, Twitter only grew 28 million users from 288 million to 316 million. Meanwhile, in the nine months since December, Instagram has grown from 300 million to 400 million users. As advertisers seek massive scale, Wall Street has soured on Twitter’s inability to grow faster. The report of Dorsey’s return has already boosted Twitter’s share price over 3 percent.
The Twitter board’s indecision about who would become CEO may also have hurt Twitter’s ability to attract and retain talent. As a public company, Twitter doesn’t have the same potential to multiply its valuation as younger startups. Without the lure of that massive upside, employees need to believe they’re building something important with a team that gets stuff done to be satisfied. That’s tough to come by with no permanent CEO, an ailing share price, and a sense of product paralysis.
But with Dorsey at the helm, even if he’s reportedly staying as CEO of Square, the kind of radically progressive changes necessary could finally get pushed through. Twitter’s product has remained stagnant due to seemingly endless back and forth testing of minor updates. Captain Dorsey could say “make it so,” and the blue bird could fly in a new direction.