Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey is smart enough to know that he's been lucky.
That's why, when asked at DEMO Fall Tuesday to expound upon his own success in growing one of the Web's most popular social networking applications, he humbly acknowledged his share of mistakes along the way. He also said that he was lucky enough to "recognize a fortunate situation and take advantage of it."
In this case, Dorsey said he was lucky that Twitter launched in the United States at around the same time that text messaging became a popular way of communicating. Since texting had gotten people used to communicating with a very limited number of characters, it made adopting Twitter as a micro-blogging platform seem much more natural than it otherwise might have been.
During a question-and-answer session during DEMO Fall in Santa Clara, Calif., (on a day that Twitter also introduced a major site revamp, the 33-year-old Dorsey said that while Twitter didn't launch officially until 2006, he had been batting the idea around in his head since he was 15. The path from his teenage daydream to global Web domination was a long and trying one, he said, for both users and for the company. In particular, he said the company at the start faced several unforeseen scaling issues that resulted in users seeing the infamous "Fail Whale" far more than they would have liked.
"When we first started we had no analytics and data to find out what was happening with the system," he confessed. "We didn't take the time to build systems to analyze the network."
But despite these initial shortcomings, Dorsey felt that it was important to get Twitter up and running on the Web and to refine the rough edges as he went along. Dorsey says start-ups need to do this because they otherwise risk falling into creative paralysis if they wait around too long to perfect their ideas before bringing them to market.
"If you don't get an idea out of your head, you'll be constantly editing it in your head," he said. "And you'll be making excuses for why you have to wait to put it out there."
Dorsey said another thing that helped him get Twitter off the ground was that he never looked at it as something that would become a ubiquitous Web application on par with Facebook. Rather, he said his initial goal was to implement a "small, curious idea that I want to work on because I want to share it with someone I know."
Looking toward the future, Dorsey said that he's been taking all the lessons he learned while bringing Twitter to market and trying to apply them to Square, his electronic payment service that is still in beta form and that lets users accept payment cards through mobile phones. He said that right now, Square is offering around 10,000 free card readers to users every day and is steadily integrating more and more people and businesses onto the system. One of the keys to avoiding some of the early hassles that Twitter experienced, he said, has been making sure everyone working on the project is one the same page."We initially had very poor communications internally," Dorsey said of the start of Twitter. "My biggest fear isn't our competition, it's not being able to move cohesively as one unit."
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