Who's the brain behind that billion-dollar bird?

Who's the brain behind that billion-dollar bird?

SINGAPORE - The Internet giant with a feathered friend for a logo and a global flock of 200 million that became a stock market star worth US$24.47 billion (S$30.5 billion) three days ago sounded like a bird-brained idea at first.

Just eight years ago, it all started - at least as one account of its ever- changing mythology goes - with two young men Noah Glass, described as a "free range hacker", and Christopher "Biz" Stone, who described himself as a "dork". Peering at the 160-character SMS limit on their prehistoric mobile phones, they pondered a plan for a platform from which everyone in the world could launch mini-messages to the masses.

Capping the length of what would soon become known as "tweets" at 140 characters - to give users room for what would become known as their "hashtags" - they invented Twitter, according to bird-of-mouth - the platform's lingo for circulating news and information.

It was Mr Glass who came up with the name, originally, Twttr, minus the vowels added later.

And the rest is history.

Or maybe not.

As Mr Glass tells it another way, the seed for Twitter was planted when he got stinking drunk in a San Francisco bar in 2005 and was tossing around ideas with Mr Jack Dorsey, who at the time was a tattooed punk rocker with a ring in his pierced nose.

Then again, Mr Dorsey, a computer programmer infatuated with dispatch systems for ambulances, cabs, and bike messengers, claims that he alone came up with the notion of a Twitterverse one fateful day that same year while on a San Francisco playground.

On March 21, 2006, he sent the world's first "tweet". "Just setting up my twttr" was all it said.

But Mr Evan "Ev" Williams sees the Twitter birth differently. A Nebraska-born farm boy, he is credited with coining the word "blogger", and had already cashed in on the Internet by selling his free blog publishing tool of the same name to Google in 2003. A year later, he poured his new millions into a podcasting website called Odeo that he formed with Mr Glass.

When Apple quickly put a similar feature on iTunes, Odeo faltered. Mr Williams urged his dwindling crew to put their heads together, And by early 2006, it was that team - among them Mr Glass, Mr Stone and Mr Dorsey - which dreamt up Twitter, he insists. Together.

No doubt, the truth lies somewhere in the mix.

In a new book Hatching Twitter: A True Story Of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal, New York Times technology reporter Nick Bilton paints a picture of the birth and evolution of Twitter, which echoes the one told in the film The Social Network and its unflattering portrayal of the way Mr Mark Zuckerberg supposedly engineered his own destiny as the father of Facebook.

Apparently nursing a bruised wing after a short stint as Twitter's first chief executive officer, Mr Dorsey took to the TV talk shows and came off sounding like the next Steve Jobs, according to Mr Bilton's account.

In the book's key anecdote, Mr Williams confronts Mr Dorsey - with Mr Stone between them "watching like a spectator at a tennis match".

Telling Mr Dorsey to "chill out", Mr Williams says his behaviour is "sending the wrong message". A defensive Mr Dorsey responds: "But I invented Twitter."

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