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Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal [Kindle Edition]

Nick Bilton
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (248 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

Ev told Jack he had to “chill out” with the deluge of media he was doing. “It’s bad for the company,” Ev said. “It’s sending the wrong message.” Biz sat between them, watching like a spectator at a tennis match.

“But I invented Twitter,” Jack said.

“No, you didn’t invent Twitter,” Ev replied. “I didn’t invent Twitter either. Neither did Biz. People don’t invent things on the Internet. They simply expand on an idea that already exists.”

In 2005, Odeo was a struggling podcasting start-up founded by free-range hacker Noah Glass and staffed by a motley crew of anarchists. Less than two years later, its days were numbered and half the staff had been let go. But out of Odeo’s ashes, the remaining employees worked on a little side venture . . . that by 2013 had become an $11.5 billion business.

That much is widely known. But the full story of Twitter’s hatching has never been told before. It’s a drama of betrayed friendships and high-stakes power struggles, as the founders went from everyday engineers to wealthy celebrities featured on magazine covers, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Daily Show, and Time’s list of the world’s most influential people.

New York Times columnist and reporter Nick Bilton takes readers behind the scenes as Twitter grew at exponential speeds. He gets inside the heads of the four hackers out of whom the company tumbled:

Evan “Ev” Williams, the ambitious farm boy from Clarks, Nebraska, who had already created Blogger and sold it to Google for millions. Quiet and protective, Ev is a shrewd businessman who made tough choices in the interest of his companies, firing cofounders and employees who were once friends.

Jack Dorsey, the tattooed “nobody” who helped mastermind the original concept of Twitter, became a billionaire tech titan, and convinced the media that he was the next Steve Jobs.

Christopher “Biz” Stone, the joker and diplomat who played nice with everyone. As drama ensued, he was the only founder who remained on good terms with his friends and to this day has no enduring resentments.

Noah Glass, the shy but energetic geek who invested his whole life in Twitter, only to be kicked out and expunged from the company’s official history.

As Twitter grew, the four founders fought bitterly for money, influence, publicity, and control over a company that grows larger and more powerful by the day. Ultimately they all lost their grip on it. Today, none of them is the CEO. Dick Costolo, a fifty-year-old former comedian, runs the company.

By 2013 Twitter boasted close to 300 million active users around the world. In barely six years, the service has become a tool for fighting political oppression in the Middle East, a marketing musthave for business, and the world’s living room during live TV events. Today, notables such as the pope, Oprah Winfrey, and the president of the United States are regular Twitter users. A seventeen-year-old with a mobile phone can now reach a larger audience than an entire crew at CNN.

Bilton’s unprecedented access and exhaustive investigating reporting—drawing on hundreds of sources, documents, and internal e-mails—have enabled him to write an intimate portrait of four friends who accidentally changed the world, and what they all learned along the way.

Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2013: Spoiler alert: The subtitle sorta says it all. That is, Nick Bilton's Hatching Twitter delivers "A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal," though not necessarily in that order. The book's four central players--Ev, Jack, Biz, and Noah--conceived of Twitter while working on Odeo, an ultimately doomed attempt to revolutionize podcasting. As their little chick grew, the four men's personal and ideological differences led to a power struggle that eventually left them all on the sidelines as a former stand-up comedian took Twitter into the uncertain future. Writing with the pacing and veracity of detail of a true-crime book, Bilton makes use of a trove of source material--from internal Twitter e-mails to extensive interviews with and early tweets by the founders themselves--and the result is as exciting and fast-paced as it is topically relevant. If you're looking for a thoughtful rumination about Twitter as a revolutionary global communications platform, keep looking. If you're looking for a quick, well-written, thoroughly researched human drama, the story of an utterly dysfunctional foursome and the accelerated unraveling of their once brilliant partnership, this is your book. #HighlyRecommended. --Jason Kirk (@brasswax)


"A fast-paced and perceptive new book by Nick Bilton." -- The New York Times

"Extensively detailed... unexpectedly addictive."  -- The Wall Street Journal

"Deeply reported and deliciously written." -- The Verge

"A compelling read, more like espionage than a corporate history." -- Fortune Magazine

"A dramatic and detail-rich recounting." -- Cnet

"Fast-paced... a perceptive read." -- USA Today

"Goes where no book has gone before." -- The Huffington Post

"Unputdownable." -- Wall Street Journal Columnist

Product Details

  • File Size: 6964 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; Reprint edition (November 5, 2013)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,327 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
230 of 239 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the perspective of a participant - rabble November 5, 2013
By Rabble
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm Rabble, one of the people who helped start Odeo and i'm mentioned a bunch in the first couple chapters. This review might not be useful for evaluating the book as something to read, but i figured this might be a decent forum to provide a review.

The story is very well told. It's a captivating read. It's very surreal to read about your friends and former co-workers in a book like this. Most of us live our lives only ourselves. Having this book is kind of like having a well researched MTV Rock Documentary about our work, friendships, and time in our lives. I think if you interview enough people, look at what happened in any situation, it's easy to put a spin and story on things. None of us know the details of everybody else's life.

I wish there'd been more discussion about the technical and models we pulled from to build twitter. Where the ideas came from and how they were put together. It's very weird to see how much focus there is on people's drinking, clothing, hygiene, and being broke. That we were pulling from txtmob, the unix finger command, carlton university's status update system, bike messenger dispatch, blogger, etc... that's not as sexy a story. That we considered how to look at transitions of mediums from desktop to web, from web to mobile, as a place to create new systems for communications in old ways, isn't as cool as intrigue amongst friends who ended up creating twitter. There's a lot of the people and not as much understanding twitter and it's context.

The order of things as they happened and as they are told in the book isn't the same. This is ok, i think, mostly because the book is about telling the story of twitter's creation. It's no a strict chronology. Reordering things makes for a better story arc.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dispelling some big myths about Silicon Valley November 9, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having lived and worked in and around Silicon Valley for most of my adult life, I have always felt that one of the most frustrating things about this still-amazing place is that it never seems content to just tell the world the truth about how technology is made.

Building products--successful and unsuccessful ones alike--requires a lot of things: A solid idea, the right team to execute on it, and good timing, certainly, but on a more complicated note, personal connections, social capital, back-room deals, and, most of all, a whole hell of a lot of luck. Yet the stories that get told about Silicon Valley all too often gloss over all of this (and the power-grabbing and horse-trading that always accompany it) in favor of the much simpler and totally inaccurate narrative about the brilliance of "that one guy." The "founder." The "inventor." The one who made all the money and took all the fame. Never mind the other people who helped come up with it, the people who supported it, the people who contributed to it, the people who toiled away to make it a real thing. Nope: Just that guy. You know, the next Steve Jobs!

Not so "Hatching Twitter." A lot of the reviews here have focused on how compelling Bilton tells this story, weaving the narrative of the tool's creation around some impressively researched details about a seemingly never-ending litany of back-stabbing. That's completely true, and the book's a worthwhile read for that alone.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Case Study in Machiavellianism November 6, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bilton's book rivals The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon in its scope and unflinching honesty. Through copious research and interviews, Bilton weaves together the heretofore untold story of one of the most influential companies of our times.

In a word, Twitter was a complete mess--technology-wise, strategy-wise, and management-wise. It's amazing that the company is purported to be worth nearly $10B.

I like that fact that Bilton pulls no punches, calling out self-anointed Steve Jobs's successor Jack Dorsey. Dorsey comes across as petulant, egomaniacal, and cunning. I had doubts that he was the second coming of Apple's iconic leader, and the book only confirmed my suspicions. Biggest myth debunked in the book: Dorsey did not invent Twitter.

Excellent read.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Author Nick Bilton conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with both current and past employees at Twitter, as well as their friends and even competitors at other companies. All four co-founders of the company agreed to be interviewed - and so did board members (past and present). I've read plenty about the history of the company and still found some surprising information in this book.

In addition to interviews, Bilton turned to Twitter itself to help fact check Twitter's history and the varied personalities behind the company. He also pored through thousands of online photos, videos, and tweets. If conversations with key players revealed significantly different recollections, trails of info found on Twitter could often set the record straight. A smart move on the author's part - scrutinizing how the founders used Twitter - right down to tweets on the exact days and times when certain pivotal events occurred.

From the first pages, I found myself drawn to the details of the power plays and personalities vividly chronicled by Bilton. The first section focuses on Twitter's founders: Evan Williams, Noah Glass, Jack Dorsey, and Biz Stone. All of them diverse and fascinating. Williams, the farm boy who came to California and taught himself code. Noah Glass, who opens a magazine and realizes he lives in an apartment directly across from Williams (talk about coincidence) and introduces himself by yelling, "Hey, Blogger!" at Williams. Then there is Jack Dorsey, , the "invisible man" who had a significant speech impediment but didn't let that stop him from eventually becoming so successful that he won Wall Street Journal's 2012 "Innovator of the Year Award" in technology.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and informative read about the formation of Twitter
"Hatching Twitter" is the story of Twitter's founding, the various vision's of the founders, and their ensuing battle for taking control of the company. Read more
Published 2 days ago by .
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and a fairly easy read. It was a little difficult do...
Interesting and a fairly easy read. It was a little difficult do determine what exactly happened, and was a little limited on a number of the business specifics. Read more
Published 8 days ago by chris
2.0 out of 5 stars The Social Network Movie 2.0
This book seems to be constructed as a movie script with a narrative very similar to The Social Network; betrayal of friends, losing stock options, wild parties, and... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Ryan Scarbrough
3.0 out of 5 stars nice summary of Twitter's history but rather repetitive
Very focused on the people and political manoeuvring behind the scenes (people are such bastards), would have been more interesting if there thad been more focus on the technology... Read more
Published 20 days ago by filipv
4.0 out of 5 stars Clown Car
This is the story of the people who started Twitter, and how they interact with each other. There isn't a lot on the technical or the business side of Twitter, other than what is... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Eric Jain
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating tale that almost seems made up
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought the story was very well laid out and it is almost unbelievable that all those people shared so much information. Read more
Published 1 month ago by @insurancebillvj
4.0 out of 5 stars A Well Written History
A very well written story about the history of Twitter. I really really enjoyed this book. If you want to get a background on Twitter or any tech company, read this book.
Published 1 month ago by Brandon Lewin
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very interesting read, especially for anyone in the software startup arena.
Published 1 month ago by STeve
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well written! Recommend
Published 3 months ago by Weibo
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and frightening !
Now I know why it was so hard to figure out who the founder of Twitter was. Textbook case of how founderitis can almost kill a startup.
Published 3 months ago by H Walia
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More About the Author

Nick Bilton is a New York Times technology and business columnist and lead blogger for The New York Times Bits Blog. His background spans design, journalism, hardware hacking, data visualization and photojournalism.

Bilton is the author of the upcoming book, Hatching Twitter, which will chronicle the story of Twitter, from its inception to today, along with the business, societal and human implications of the company.

Bilton's columns and articles for The New York Times have led to investigations by the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice and Congress. In late-2011, Bilton began questioning the Federal Aviation Administration's arcane rules banning Kindles and iPads during takeoff and landing. His reporting helped push the F.A.A. to initiate a committee reviewing its rules. Bilton writes regularly about Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Silicon Valley; his columns have covered gun control, privacy, voting, free speech online and digital culture.

In addition to The Times, Bilton's work has appeared in Wired, Engadget, Scientific America, ABC, CNet, O'Reilly Radar and AlleyInsider. He is also an adjunct professor at New York University in the Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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