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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

An introduction to Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s new CEO

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Twitter has a new CEO: Parag Agrawal, who’ll be taking up for Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, the longest-serving chief govt within the firm’s 15-plus-year historical past.

Agrawal isn’t probably the most well-known of names both inside or outdoors of Twitter. He’s been with the corporate for over a decade, although, working his manner up from an engineer to develop into its high govt (and an in depth good friend of Dorsey’s). Agrawal first began at Twitter again in October 2011 with a deal with advert merchandise, and he grew to become the primary recipient of the corporate’s “Distinguished Engineer” title. He was later appointed chief expertise officer in October 2017, throughout which era he’s jumped in to deal with high-profile issues (like a large-scale password safety difficulty) and tackle among the firm’s bolder initiatives (like decentralization). However regardless of that lengthy tenure, Agrawal, who’s 37, hasn’t spent a lot time within the public eye — one thing that can instantly change along with his new position.

That stated, there are a number of cues from Agrawal’s historical past as CTO that would point out the place Twitter would possibly go subsequent below his management. Agrawal is the fourth individual to take the reins at Twitter, after Dorsey (who led the corporate from 2006 to 2008, and once more from 2015 till now), Evan Williams (who co-founded Twitter alongside Dorsey and served as CEO from 2008 to 2010), and Dick Costolo (Twitter’s former COO, who served as CEO from 2010 by means of 2015).

In his time as CTO, one among Agrawal’s greatest tasks has been his overseeing of the corporate’s decentralized Bluesky platform, which was first introduced in December 2019. Supposed as an “open and decentralized normal for social media” that Twitter itself might ultimately transition to utilizing, Bluesky has been one of many extra dramatic concepts for Twitter’s future and a pet challenge of Dorsey’s.

Bluesky has additionally been selecting up steam previously few months after a protracted interval of radio silence: the group printed its assessment of current decentralized social media methods firstly of the 12 months and eventually put cryptocurrency developer Jay Graber in control of Bluesky in August after months of trying to find a product lead. Presumably, Bluesky’s growth — and its potential affect in changing the underpinnings of Twitter’s platform — is one thing that can proceed to be a serious challenge for Agrawal as CEO.

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Moreover, the newly founded Twitter Crypto team led by Tess Rinearson that was introduced earlier in November additionally reported on to Agrawal (though it’s not clear if that can proceed to be the case following his promotion). That group can also be set to work intently with Bluesky, which — mixed with Agrawal’s curiosity in decentralized Web3 platforms — speaks to a attainable route for Twitter’s future.

That have with Bluesky might gel properly with one other of Agrawal’s greatest tasks as Twitter’s chief expertise officer: the years-long effort to attempt to transfer a few of Twitter’s merchandise off its personal servers to extra strong cloud companies from firms like Amazon and Google.

Agrawal spearheaded the hassle to advance Twitter’s inside expertise again in 2018 in an effort to attempt to assist velocity up the tempo of function growth and deployment, as famous in an interview with The Information earlier this 12 months. “Once we hear folks say that Twitter is gradual at delivery, that hurts, and that’s one thing we use as motivation,” Agrawal stated.

That’s led to adjustments like Twitter’s partnership with Google Cloud for processing knowledge in Might 2018 and the continued effort to slowly change over the Twitter timeline function itself to Amazon Net Providers (which is predicted to be full in 2023). “I do assume persons are beginning to acknowledge now externally that we’re going sooner. And it feels good as a result of it’s like a bunch of labor from the previous beginning to repay,” Agrawal famous within the interview. “However we’re nowhere near finished. I feel we have now a variety of alternative to go even sooner and [in] much more noticeable methods within the coming years.”

Different Agrawal tasks had been extra reactionary fixes to current Twitter issues, albeit important ones: in his time as CTO, Agrawal was a part of the effort final 12 months to deal with Twitter’s problematic racial cropping issues with photo previews, along with handling the public explanation for the corporate’s 2018 password bug.

Agrawal has additionally hinted at how he’ll handle one among Twitter’s greatest challenges: moderation. In a 2020 interview with MIT Technology Review, Agrawal stated that Twitter’s position is to construct a wholesome place for conversing on-line, suggesting that would come on the expense of permitting folks to say no matter they need. “Our position is to not be sure by the First Modification, however our position is to serve a wholesome public dialog,” he stated.

That doesn’t imply moderating all misinformation, although. Agrawal views Twitter’s purpose as avoiding the “particular hurt that deceptive data could cause” quite than “attempting to be an arbiter of what’s true or false on the web.” That’s as a result of, as Agrawal places it, “defining misinformation is admittedly, actually laborious.”

That stance could proceed to result in points with Republican politicians, a lot of whom are already against Twitter’s moderation insurance policies and ban of former President Donald Trump. The House Judiciary GOP Twitter account already referred to Twitter’s new CEO as “a lot worse” than Dorsey after latching onto an out-of-context tweet from Agrawal from 2010 (earlier than he was employed at Twitter) quoting a comedic phase from The Every day Present with Jon Stewart’s Aasif Mandvi about stereotypes. Repeated reports have proven that social media platforms like Twitter don’t have any empirical proof of bias towards conservative content material, and a recent study from Twitter itself discovered that the platform’s algorithms truly favored right-wing views.

It’s one among many hurdles Agrawal must overcome. Whereas he inherits an organization that has been rising its day by day consumer figures and rolling out merchandise at a speedier-than-ever clip, Twitter nonetheless faces ongoing points with consumer progress at dwelling, advert merchandise stymied by current privateness adjustments, and faster-growing social networks like Snapchat. Agrawal will not be probably the most publicly recognizable candidate for working Twitter, however his years of expertise with the corporate, deep expertise with Twitter’s product, and previous work in serving to modernize Twitter’s tech stack makes him an attention-grabbing selection for CEO, particularly as decentralized blockchain expertise turns into extra distinguished.

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