Twitter has a new CEO: Parag Agrawal, who will succeed Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, the longest-serving CEO in the company’s history for more than 15 years.
Agrawal isn’t the most well-known of names, either inside or outside of Twitter. He’s been with the company for over a decade, however, going from an engineer to being its senior manager (and a close friend of Dorsey’s). Agrawal started on Twitter in October 2011 with a focus on advertising products, and became the company’s first recipient of the Distinguished Engineer title. He was then appointed CTO in October 2017, during which time he stepped in to tackle large-scale issues (like a large-scale password security glitch) and take some of the boldest initiatives. of the enterprise (such as decentralization). But despite this long tenure, Agrawal, who is 37, hasn’t spent much time in the public eye – something that will change immediately with his new role.
That said, there are a few clues from Agrawal’s history as a CTO that could point to where Twitter could go next under his leadership. Agrawal is the fourth person to take the reins of Twitter, after Dorsey (who ran the company from 2006 to 2008, and again from 2015 to today), Evan Williams (who co-founded Twitter alongside Dorsey and was CEO from 2008 to 2010) and Dick Costolo (former COO of Twitter, who was CEO from 2010 to 2015).
As CTO, one of Agrawal’s biggest projects has been overseeing the company’s decentralized Bluesky platform, which was first announced in December 2019. Designed as an “open standard and decentralized for social media “that Twitter itself could eventually pass to use, Bluesky has been one of the most dramatic ideas for the future of Twitter and a Dorsey favorite.
Bluesky has also gained momentum in recent months after a long period of radio silence: the group released its review of existing decentralized social media systems earlier this year and ultimately named cryptocurrency developer Jay Graber. in charge of Bluesky in August. after months of searching for a product lead. Presumably, Bluesky’s development – and its potential impact on replacing Twitter’s platform foundations – is something that will continue to be a major project for Agrawal as CEO.
Additionally, the new Twitter Crypto team led by Tess Rinearson that was announced earlier in November has also reported directly to Agrawal (although it’s not clear if that will continue to be the case after his promotion). This team is also ready to work closely with Bluesky, which, combined with Agrawal’s interest in decentralized Web3 platforms, points to a possible direction for the future of Twitter.
This experience with Bluesky may well combine with another of Agrawal’s biggest projects as Twitter’s CTO: the multi-year effort to try and move some of Twitter’s products from its own servers to services. more robust cloud companies like Amazon and Google.
Agrawal spearheaded efforts to advance Twitter’s internal technology in 2018 with the aim of trying to accelerate the pace of feature development and deployment, as reported in an interview with Information earlier this year. “When we hear people say that Twitter is slow to ship, it hurts, and that’s something we use as motivation,” Agrawal said.
This has led to changes like Twitter partnership with Google Cloud for data processing in May 2018 and the ongoing efforts to slowly switch the Twitter timeline function itself to Amazon Web Services (expected to be completed in 2023). “I think people are starting to recognize now on the outside that we are going faster. And it feels good because it’s like a bunch of past work starting to pay off, ”Agrawal noted in the interview. “But we are far from finished. I think we have a lot of opportunities to go even faster and [in] even more visible ways in the years to come.
Other Agrawal projects were more reactionary solutions to existing Twitter problems, albeit significant ones: during his time as CTO, Agrawal was part of the effort last year to fix Twitter’s racial cropping issues with photo previews, in addition to manage public explanation for the 2018 company password bug.
Agrawal also hinted that he was going to tackle one of Twitter’s biggest challenges: moderation. In a 2020 interview with MIT Technology ReviewAgrawal said Twitter’s role is to create a healthy place to converse online, suggesting that this could come at the expense of allowing people to say whatever they want. “Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation,” he said.
This does not mean, however, to moderate all misinformation. Agrawal sees Twitter’s goal as avoiding the “specific harm that misleading information can cause” rather than “trying to be an arbiter of what is right and wrong on the Internet”. This is because, as Agrawal says, “defining disinformation is really, really hard.”
This position could continue to cause problems with Republican politicians, many of whom are already opposed to Twitter’s moderation policies and former President Donald Trump’s ban. The House Judiciary GOP Twitter Account has already called Twitter’s new CEO “much worse” than Dorsey after hanging on to a 2010 Agrawal tweet out of context (before he was employed at Twitter) citing a comedic segment from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart‘s Aasif Mandvi on stereotypes. Repeated reports have shown that social media platforms like Twitter have no empirical evidence of bias against conservative content, and a recent study by Twitter itself found that the platform’s algorithms actually favored the views of law.
This is one of the many obstacles that Agrawal will have to overcome. As it inherits a business that has grown its daily user base and rolled out products faster than ever before, Twitter still faces lingering issues with the growth of home users, ad revenue being blocked by users. recent privacy changes and the faster growth of social networks. networks like Snapchat. Agrawal may not be the most well-known candidate in the public to manage Twitter, but his years of experience in the business, his deep experience with the Twitter product, and his previous work to help modernize Twitter’s technology stack by make an attractive choice for the CEO, especially as a decentralized blockchain technology. becomes more important.