Jack Dorsey takes aim at Elon Musk and Twitter on a new platform

Jack Dorsey has barely posted on Twitter, the social media platform he helped create, since January. In two of his last tweetthe billionaire entrepreneur promoted an app for Nostr, a new social network.

“#nostr is now officially on the Apple App Store,” he wrote. “and Google Play Store.”

Since then, Mr Dorsey has posted on Nostr an average of 59 times a day, including posts aimed at Twitter and its new owner, Elon Musk.

“It’s weak,” Mr Dorsey said writing on Nostr last month of Mr. Musk’s move to block Twitter users from logging into Substacka newsletter platform that launched a competitor on Twitter.

Mr. Dorsey has also started using another new social network, Blue sky. On Saturday, in response to a Bluesky user’s question whether Mr. Musk was Twitter’s best steward, Mr. Dorsey answered bluntly, “No.”

“It all went south,” he said of this Mr. Musk had done on Twitter. “But it happened and all we can do now is build something to prevent it from happening again.”

Mr. Dorsey, 46, the bitcoin-loving techie who for years was Twitter’s most prominent face, appeared to fade from public view after Mr. Musk bought the social media company last year for $44 billion. But Mr. Dorsey’s recent and abundant activity on Nostr and Bluesky signals that he still has a lot to say.

Much of what Dorsey publishes is aligned with his interests in cryptocurrency and open-source technology, where code is made public so people can tinker with it and reuse it. But he also openly criticized Mr Musk’s ownership of Twitter, becoming the latest in a long line of Silicon Valley founders who express disappointment among those who take over their business.

Mr. Dorsey is also investing his money where his posts are by supporting new Twitter competitors. In 2019, when Mr Dorsey was Twitter’s chief executive, he funded Bluesky as a project that would allow all social networks to be decentralized by easily sharing posts and users. And in December, he donated 14 bitcoins, worth around $250,000 at the time, to the pseudonymous creator of Nostr, who goes by the name “fiatjaf”.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he withholds his voice on Twitter as a matter of principle,” Jason Goldman, a member of Twitter’s founding team who also served on its board, said of Mr. Dorsey. He added that in his final comments, Mr Dorsey “acknowledges how bad things have gone for Twitter under Elon Musk”.

Credit…by Bluesky

Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Musk did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Dorsey, who helped found Twitter in 2006, served as the company’s chief executive for eight years over two different periods. And if the success of the social network has transformed him into a billionaire, he seems to have become disillusioned in recent years with the management of Twitter.

Among other things, Mr Dorsey, who supports free speech, lamented that Twitter has become too powerful as an arbiter of what should stay online and what should be deleted. He also blamed Wall Street for diverting Twitter from its primary role as a communications platform, urging it to make money and ultimately sell out to the highest bidder.

In November 2021, Mr Dorsey, who also runs payment startup Block (formerly known as Square), stepped down as chief executive of Twitter. He quit its board last year following Mr Musk’s bid for the company.

Mr. Dorsey has since said that Twitter should have been built like a different kind of social network: a decentralized network. Unlike traditional social platforms, which run private code that they control, decentralized social networks make their systems public so users can potentially create their own apps and communities. This way, no entity can impose rules on what can or cannot be said in these networks, and users can personalize their experiences.

“The problem today is that we have companies that have both” the technology and the algorithms that display the posts, which “ultimately puts a person in charge of what is available and seen, or not,” said writes Mr. Dorsey in a December blog. job which he shared on Nostr. “This is by definition a single point of failure, no matter how great the person, and over time it will shatter the public conversation and could lead to increased scrutiny by governments and corporations around the world. .”

TechDirt blog editor and technology policy expert Mike Masnick said decentralized networks “allow for a lot more experimentation and trying to do things in a different way.” But he warned they also face challenges in complying with content moderation laws, such as the Digital Services Act in Europe or US copyright law.

Dorsey has been interested in decentralized social platforms since at least 2019, when he started working on Bluesky, and has long had an interest in Bitcoin, a popular cryptocurrency. He joined Nostr – the acronym stands for “relayed notes and other stuff” – in December. Nostr also allows users to send small cryptocurrency payments to each other, known as “zaps”.

Fiatjaf, the creator of Nostr, said in an email that Mr Dorsey’s support “has been a game-changer, but much less in terms of funding than in terms of the awareness and enthusiasm he has generated at about Nostr”. He added: “We hope the funding part will start to play a bigger role eventually.”

Bluesky, who declined to comment, said in a blog post that Mr. Dorsey remain on its board of directors. (Twitter severed its relationship with Bluesky after Mr. Musk took over.)

Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Musk have a long-standing, top-down relationship. When Mr. Musk made an offer for Twitter last year Mr. Dorsey endorsed the effort.

“In principle, I don’t think anyone should own or run Twitter,” Dorsey wrote on Twitter at the time. “Solving the problem of being a business though, Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to expand the light of consciousness.

But after Mr. Musk bought Twitter in October, he immediately fired many of the executives handpicked by Mr. Dorsey. Mr. Musk has since laid off about 75% of Twitter’s workforce, refused to pay rent for some of its offices, and made sweeping and sometimes contradictory changes to its content moderation policies.

As Mr. Dorsey posted on Nostr and then Bluesky, his criticisms of Mr. Musk and Twitter piled up.

In some posts, Mr Dorsey berated Twitter for its repeated outages. Last month, he hinted on Nostr that Twitter users could leave the platform if they wanted to. He also mocked Mr. Musk’s decision to charge Twitter users $8 a month for a check mark, a symbol that once indicated a verified identity on the platform.

But Mr. Dorsey’s sharpest assessment of Mr. Musk’s leadership came this weekend on Bluesky, where Mr. Dorsey has more than 11,000 subscribers. (He has more than six million Twitter followers.)

On Saturday, Dorsey responded to several Bluesky users who asked him about the sale of Twitter and the changes the company has undergone in recent months. He said decentralized social networks were the best defense against corporate thieves and added that Mr Musk “should have refrained” from buying Twitter.

Mr Goldman, who was among Bluesky users who questioned Mr Dorsey over the weekend, said the comments disregarded the way Mr Dorsey has run Twitter for years and is also responsible of where the company ended up.

“He blames the inevitability of market forces, despite having led the company as executive chairman or CEO for more than a decade,” Mr. Goldman said of Mr. Dorsey.

On Sunday, Mr Dorsey returned to Nostr, where he has 134,000 subscribers. He said he regretted taking Twitter public and making it a business in the first place.

Credit…via Nostr

He also lifted his criticism of Mr Musk by praising the Twitter owner’s efforts to make the site less dependent on brand advertising, which accounts for the bulk of the company’s revenue. And he encouraged Mr Musk to consider making Twitter more open, using decentralized technology or “open protocol”.

“I understand the urgency and the rushed moves,” Mr Dorsey said. writing. “I hope he eventually realizes that basing it on an open protocol like this will solve a lot of problems and allow for some pretty incredible activity. We’ll see.”

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