English is my second language. You were my first. Dude had an energy. Noah worked across the hall from us on the sixth floor of a old broke-ass building in South Park. He came over all the time. He was friendly like that. Noah was excited to tell us about a new thing he was working on. I was right about the logo and wrong about the service. So Noah showed it to me, and I still thought it was stupid.
Remember, this was also the golden age of check-in services, where people made sure all their friends knew where they were at all times lest they subject themselves to a moment of introspection. Nevertheless, I signed up anyway, tweeted a few times, and was fairly close to deleting it a few times as well. When I turned my phone back on I had about 20 new messages. Texts, voicemails, and a bunch of tweet replies.
Including my now-wife, wondering what hospital I was at. It was for having fun. The first few years of Twitter were fun. The jokes piled up. I met other people who also liked to tell jokes. But seriously, it was mostly about making jokes. We even had a website that turned our stupid jokes into a deadly leaderboard game: See that fool peaking out from that bottom right? He does car commercials now. At the same time as we were telling these dumb jokes we were also meeting a lot of new people.
Twitter was a really great way to meet people. Some of my very closest friends today are people I met during the early days of Twitter. And some of them live halfway around the world. I also know people who met on Twitter and have children now!
Tweeted at each other. Got little crushes on each other. Figured out ways to meet in person and then made babies! People met on here and started businesses. Celebrated kids birthdays, and got support when a loved one died. Then inline images happened and we added photos of cats, kids, and sad Keanu to this wonderful mess.
Twitter also taught me how to be a better writer. Count how many of these sentences are under characters. I wanted to shake it. But as stupid as this might sound every little star they will always be stars gave me a little more confidence.
And eventually what started as a place to tell jokes became a place to talk about design. And I got confident enough to start sharing those ideas too.
And when I was writing those books, I kept my book in one window, and Twitter in another window. If I thought a sentence was pretty good I pasted it into the Twitter text field to make sure it was characters. Twitter made me a better writer.
I made you a better writer, asshole. But I met her on Twitter. There was a time where Twitter was a place you went to fuck around, and accidentally made friends and got smarter. I moved to San Francisco in I was part of that wave of people who moved here and destroyed the city. I came here because the internet was new. It felt like punk rock for publishing on a global scale.
We could make things and just tell the world. San Francisco was full of hope and crazy back then. And sure, a lot of it was driven by money, but more accurately, it was driven by giving young hopeful kids a lot of money and waiting for them to make something that you could make money from. They were exciting times.
We were young, stupid, and equipped with more processing power than any human being had ever possessed in history. Also, a lot of fucking ecstasy. I remember walking around the city on those days. Feeling a bit cocky to be honest. But we thought we were gonna change the world. Twitter was built at the tail end of that era. Their goal was giving everyone a voice.
They were so obsessed with giving everyone a voice that they never stopped to wonder what would happen when everyone got one. And they never asked themselves what everyone meant. Twitter, which was conceived and built by a room of privileged white boys some of them my friends! The power of Oppenheimer-wide destruction is in the hands of entitled men-children, cuddled runts, who aim not to enhance human communication, but to build themselves a digital substitute for physical contact with members of the species who were unlike them.
And it should scare you. Election Night at Twitter HQ. I forget who invited me, but I was excited to be there because this felt like the first presidential election that the internet had an active part in. It felt like all of the tools the web community had spent the last ten years or more building had actually culminated in this moment. And I sat on that couch crying. I was getting to see this moment as a guest in the place that got all of these voices communicating. And all of those voices helped elect a president.
In I thought Twitter helped elect a president. I was off by eight years. From its inception, like most startups from the era, Twitter lacked a clearly defined business plan.
Now I am not a business expert. In fact, I know jack shit about business plans. Some of them are written by smart people. I will say this though: This is the original sin of Silicon Valley.
And Twitter had plateaued, and in the Valley plateauing is a thousand times worse than flaming out. Twitter needed a spark. Twitter, not realizing they were sitting on a bomb, went looking for something to light the fuse. They were about to get it. In March Donald Trump joined Twitter.
He was a washed-up NY real estate buffoon, exiled to the world of reality television and catchphrases. He was a buffoon willing to say anything for attention, and we reveled in his buffoonery.
He made fun of rival TV show ratings and we laughed. And he was building an audience. And like any self-obsessed paranoid sociopath he reveled in the attention. And he kept doing the thing that got him the attention. And the more attention it got him the more he did it. And the meaner he got the more attention we gave him.
Soon tweets about TV appearances and celebrities were replaced by tweets about birtherism, the Central Park murder, tearing down women, Muslims, and other assorted targets of hate. And his audience grew. With their investors demanding growth, and their leadership blind to the bomb they were sitting on, Twitter decided that the audience Trump was bringing them was more important than upholding their core principles, their ethics, and their own terms of service.
And that, whenever that day might have been, is the day Twitter died. Biz Stone would have you believe that inaction is principle. I would ask you to consider the voices that have been silenced.
The voices that have disappeared from Twitter because of the hatred and the abuse.