Twitter genesis shrouded in mystery

Twitter genesis shrouded in mystery
Jack Dorsey, chairman of Twitter and CEO of Square.

SAN FRANCISCO - The story of Twitter's creation is a murky tale complete with betrayed trusts and dueling claims for credit.

Local lore, backed by Jack Dorsey, has it that he proposed the idea to fellow Twitter co-founders at a playground in San Francisco.

But journalist Nick Bilton, author of "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship and Betrayal," says the history is not quite that simple.

Dorsey was a key member of Twitter's founders, but it was a collective effort, The New York Times journalist argues.

"In fact, Dorsey forced out the man who was arguably Twitter's most influential co-founder before the site took off, only to be quietly pushed out of the company himself later," Bilton wrote.

Dorsey, who turns 37 this month, has spoken in interviews of boyhood fascination with emergency services radio dispatch chatter impressing on him the power of communicating with short bursts of words.

"They were always talking about where they were going, what they were doing, and that is where the idea for Twitter came from," Dorsey said in CBS News interview.

"Suddenly, we had these phones and I could update where I am, what I'm doing and how I feel."

Dorsey was a recent transplant to San Francisco when spotting locally renowned entrepreneur Evan Williams in a cafe prompted him to email a resume that landed him a job at Odeo.

Williams had sold Web diary service Blogger to Google and worked at the Internet titan before launching podcasting platform Odeo with his friend Noah Glass.

Dorsey earned a reputation as an engineering star at Odeo. In Silicon Valley style, Dorsey mixed social and work life, becoming close with Glass, according to Bilton's book.

After Apple added podcasts to iTunes, knocking the legs from under Odeo, Williams considered shutting down the company and Glass turned to co-workers for ideas regarding a new path for the company, according to Bilton.

Dorsey is credited with coming up with the idea for Twitter when Williams gave workers at Odeo two weeks to work on new projects.

The way Dorsey tells it in interviews, he was in a park playground with fellow programmer Florian Weber and another Odeo peer when he pitched the idea for what is now Twitter.

The platform let people fire off one-to-many text messages limited to no more than 140 characters.

The book tells of a night of drinking in early 2006 winding up with Glass and Dorsey talking in a parked car.

In the eyes of Glass, the story goes, the idea could fly if people connected in conversations instead of merely posting updates about themselves.

In a recent New Yorker magazine story, Dorsey was quoted as recalling the chat and how Glass finally "got it" when it came to seeing his vision.

Glass portrays himself as championing the idea at Odeo, where Williams and others were already at work on a similar idea involving audio messages.

Meanwhile, online encyclopedia Wikipedia describes Twitter's origin as the result of a day of "brainstorming" by members of the Odeo board.

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