An introduction to Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s new CEO

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

Agrawal isn’t essentially the most well-known of names both inside or exterior of Twitter. He’s been with the corporate for over a decade, although, working his method up from an engineer to turn out to be its high government (and an in depth good friend of Dorsey’s). Agrawal first started 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 tackle high-profile issues (like a large-scale password safety challenge) and tackle a number of the firm’s bolder initiatives (like decentralization). But 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 together with his new function.

That mentioned, there are just a few cues from Agrawal’s historical past as CTO that might 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 via 2015).

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

Bluesky has additionally been selecting up steam up to now few months after an extended interval of radio silence: the group revealed its evaluate of present decentralized social media techniques originally of the 12 months and eventually put cryptocurrency developer Jay Graber in command of Bluesky in August after months of trying to find a product lead. Presumably, Bluesky’s improvement — and its potential influence in changing the underpinnings of Twitter’s platform — is one thing that can proceed to be a significant undertaking for Agrawal as CEO.

Additionally, the newly based Twitter Crypto crew led by Tess Rinearson that was introduced earlier in November additionally reported instantly to Agrawal (though it’s not clear if that can proceed to be the case following his promotion). That crew can also be set to work carefully with Bluesky, which — mixed with Agrawal’s curiosity in decentralized Web3 platforms — speaks to a doable path for Twitter’s future.

That expertise with Bluesky might gel properly with one other of Agrawal’s largest initiatives as Twitter’s chief expertise officer: the years-long effort to try to transfer a few of Twitter’s merchandise off its personal servers to extra sturdy cloud companies from corporations like Amazon and Google.

Agrawal spearheaded the trouble to advance Twitter’s inside expertise again in 2018 in an effort to try to assist velocity up the tempo of characteristic improvement and deployment, as famous in an interview with The Information earlier this 12 months. “When we hear folks say that Twitter is sluggish at transport, that hurts, and that’s one thing we use as motivation,” Agrawal mentioned.

That’s led to adjustments like Twitter’s partnership with Google Cloud for processing knowledge in May 2018 and the continuing effort to slowly change over the Twitter timeline characteristic itself to Amazon Web Services (which is predicted to be full in 2023). “I do assume individuals 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. “But we’re nowhere shut to accomplished. I believe we’ve got a number of alternative to go even sooner and [in] much more noticeable methods within the coming years.”

Other Agrawal initiatives had been extra reactionary fixes to present Twitter issues, albeit important ones: in his time as CTO, Agrawal was a part of the effort final 12 months to tackle Twitter’s problematic racial cropping points with picture previews, as well as to handling the public explanation for the corporate’s 2018 password bug.

Agrawal has additionally hinted at how he’ll tackle one among Twitter’s largest challenges: moderation. In a 2020 interview with MIT Technology Review, Agrawal mentioned that Twitter’s function is to construct a wholesome place for conversing online, suggesting that might come on the expense of permitting folks to say no matter they need. “Our function isn’t to be certain by the First Amendment, however our function is to serve a wholesome public dialog,” he mentioned.

That doesn’t imply moderating all misinformation, although. Agrawal views Twitter’s purpose as avoiding the “particular hurt that deceptive data may cause” fairly than “making an attempt 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 basically, actually arduous.”

That stance might proceed to lead to points with Republican politicians, lots of whom are already opposed to 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 Daily Show with Jon Stewart’s Aasif Mandvi about stereotypes. Repeated experiences have proven that social media platforms like Twitter don’t have any empirical proof of bias in opposition to conservative content material, and a latest examine from Twitter itself discovered that the platform’s algorithms truly favored right-wing views.

It’s one among many hurdles Agrawal can have to overcome. While 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 latest privateness adjustments, and faster-growing social networks like Snapchat. Agrawal might not be essentially the most publicly recognizable candidate for running 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 fascinating alternative for CEO, particularly as decentralized blockchain expertise turns into extra outstanding.

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