Twitter’s temporary CEO, Jack Dorsey, gushed over the app with quasi-religious zeal in 2015, calling it “the closest thing we have to a global consciousness.” Dorsey later returned to the company as its permanent CEO in 2016.
Mr. Dorsey, on the other hand, stepped down from the pulpit on Monday. According to an email sent to Twitter staff, he announced his resignation, stating that he thought the firm should “stand on its own, free of its founder’s influence or direction.” He stated that Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief technical officer, would take over as the company’s chief executive officer, and that Bret Taylor would be appointed to the company’s board of directors.
In some respects, Mr. Dorsey’s decision to step down was not entirely unexpected. For more than a year, he has been under intense pressure from activist investor Elliot Management to accelerate Twitter’s development and improve its financial performance. As CEO of Square, the rapidly expanding financial services business he co-founded, it seemed inevitable that he would conclude that one C.E.O. position was enough for him. But he hasn’t made that decision yet. (In his email, Mr. Dorsey said that he had made the decision to leave Twitter.)
The situation with Mr. Dorsey and his fellow tech moguls, though, is a little more complicated than that. They seem to be becoming dissatisfied and restless with their occupations, and they are venturing out in quest of excitement and adventure.
According to Recode’s Peter Kafka, this year’s massive wave of tech executive departures is partly due to the fact that the biggest Silicon Valley behemoths have grown so large and profitable that they no longer require visionary founders to lead them — only competent managers who can keep the money-printing machines running and avoid any catastrophic mistakes.
However, it also serves as a reminder of how little joy the giants of technology seem to be having. Many of the founders of today’s largest technology corporations are becoming more frustrated with the management of their companies, which are becoming increasingly burdened by political controversy and difficult-to-fix issues such as disinformation and hate speech. They don’t see a simple solution, and they get more thrilled by creating new things than they do about mending existing ones. As a result, they are handing up control of their empires to others and setting off in quest of new horizons.
It seems that Mr. Dorsey’s next venture will be in the field of artificial intelligence. The cryptocurrency Bitcoin is his life’s obsession (it’s the only item included in his Twitter profile), and he speaks about it and the decentralised web with the same enthusiasm with which he originally described the social media platform Twitter.
During a Bitcoin conference in Miami in June, he told the crowd, “I don’t believe there is anything more essential in my lifetime to work on, nor do I believe there is anything more enabling for people all over the globe.”
The founder of Twitter, Mr. Dorsey, has emerged as a crypto influencer in recent months, thanks to his oracular beard and odd health practises, which have made him something of a cult character in Silicon Valley. As he announced his resignation on Monday, bitcoin supporters assumed he would utilise his newly acquired free time to advocate for the cryptocurrency’s cause. (A more probable possibility is that he will continue to promote cryptocurrency initiatives while working at Square, where he has already begun to establish a decentralised finance firm.)
In many respects, the crypto-currency landscape today has inherited the loose, freewheeling attitude that characterised the early days of social media. Cryptocurrency start-ups are collecting large sums of money, generating enormous quantities of publicity, and embarking on grandiose missions to alter the course of history. Cryptocurrency is populated by eccentric geniuses with odd backgrounds and voracious appetites for risk, and the web3 (a vision for a decentralised internet based on blockchains) has several challenging technological issues that engineers delight in solving. These attributes, together with the massive amounts of money pouring into cryptocurrency, have made it an appealing landing site for burned-out tech professionals trying to rekindle their young optimism — and maybe even for CEOs.
In the past, Square, a company that develops mobile payment systems, has been the most appropriate conduit for Mr. Dorsey’s cryptocurrency ambitions. However, he has attempted to integrate some of the concepts of Bitcoin into the Twitter platform. Last year, the company introduced Bitcoin tipping and launched a decentralisation project called Bluesky, with the goal of developing an open protocol that would allow third-party developers to create Twitter-like social networks with rules and features that are distinct from those found in the main Twitter application. As a result, Mr. Agrawal, who will take over for Mr. Dorsey at Twitter, has been directly engaged with these projects, and it is likely that they will continue when Mr. Dorsey departs.
It’s possible to take a pessimistic view of Mr. Dorsey and his colleagues and conclude that they’re just attempting to avoid accountability by launching themselves into space and messing about with cryptocurrency while other people clean up the problems they left at their previous employment.
Still, there’s something to be said about understanding when it’s time to hand the reins over to another. And now that he has experienced what it is like to be at the centre of power, it is difficult to criticise Mr. Dorsey for his desire to decentralise the internet, beginning with himself and others.