Jack Dorsey eases Twitter into life after Trump

Hello, and welcome to this Wednesday’s edition of the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech. I’m your host Alexei Oreskovic.

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Soundtrack: This week’s newsletter has been specially designed to be consumed while listening to Kokoroko’s “Abusey Junction.”

This week: Jack Dorsey eases Twitter into life after Trump

In a strange twist of timing, Twitter and the US Senate  both spent Tuesday publicly coming to terms with the actions of the man who has dominated their worlds for years: former president Donald Trump. As the Senate began its impeachment trial, Twitter’s management tried to ease investors into the company’s life without Trump.

Unlike the Senate, which is deciding whether to ban Trump from political office, Twitter has already booted him from its realm. It’s the consequence of this action with which Twitter must now contend.

  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey assured investors during the company’s quarterly earnings call Tuesday that the company is “obviously much larger than any one topic or any one account.”
  • But the loss of Trump is also, obviously, much more significant than subtracting a single “monetizable daily active user” (to use Twitter’s preferred term) from the company’s latest tally of 192 million.
  • How many of Trump’s followers have quit Twitter in solidarity? How much less engaged will Twitter’s users be without the daily dose of provocative tweets from the platform’s most obstreperous user? And how do you even measure the loss of exposure that Twitter will suffer by not having every newspaper and TV news program cite it when reporting on Trump’s latest comments?

I don’t think I heard the name Trump cross anyone’s lips during the entire conference call, but there was a lot of talk about the impact of certain “account closures” and recent “unusual circumstances.” Twitter pointed out that the absolute number of new users in January (the month Trump was banned) was above the historical average of the last four years. The user growth rate for the current quarter however is expected to be 20%, which is below the 24% rate at which its audience grew at the same time last year.

The company is not “dependent on just news and politics being what drives Twitter,” Dorsey said.

“What we are excited about, especially in the future,” he continued, “is helping everyone unlock more of the long-tail topics and interests.”

What seemed clear is that post-Trump Twitter marks a new era in the evolution of the social network’s business. From almost its inception more than 13 years ago, Twitter has pitched itself as a personality-driven social network. Facebook is where you connect with people you know, Twitter is where you “follow” people you may or may not know. 

As Twitter said in its IPO prospectus in 2013, the company’s business is partly dependent on being the platform of choice for “influential users, such as world leaders, government officials, celebrities, athletes” and other muckety-mucks.

  • Ditching Trump doesn’t mean Twitter no longer values having blue-check rainmakers like Barack Obama (129 million followers), Justin Bieber (113 million followers), and Katy Perry (109 million followers).
  • But it’s also probably not a coincidence that the company is now exploring alternative revenue models, as Bloomberg recently reported, including premium features like an”un-send” button and a subscription-based ad-free offering.

Postscript: I decided to check how much of a “Trump Bump” Twitter’s stock has enjoyed over the past five years or so. Turns out, it’s nothing to write home about. In fact, not only did Facebook’s and Google’s stocks outperform Twitter by leaps and bounds since June 2015 (when Trump announced his candidacy), Twitter’s stock (in blue) even underperformed the Nasdaq during this period.

Maybe life after Trump for Twitter won’t be so much worse after all? 

Quote of the week: 

“Thirty minutes or so, before I go to bed, I draw some drawings … [and] show him”

— SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son describing his nighttime ritual of sending drawings to his longtime friend and fellow tech billionaire Jack Ma. If Masa’s sketches are as good as his company’s famous earnings presentation slides, they must be a sight to behold.

Snapshot: When you’re ready to fly again

It’s been a while since many of us have been on a plane — and for the most part, commercial air travel isn’t an experience we’ve missed very much. That said, the new version of JetBlue’s business class seating stirred a long dormant urge within us to buckle-up and settle in for a long journey in the clouds. 

The seats in JetBlue’s so-called Mint business suites are arranged in a 1-1 configuration, which gives everyone a window and direct access to the aisle (no need to step over a slumbering neighbor). Each suite has its own door that can be shut for extra privacy, as well as expandable desk space, wireless device charging, built-in cubbies and a reading lamp with mood lighting options.

A rendering of JetBlue Airways’ Mint business class suite.JetBlue Airways

The new suites were designed for JetBlue’s new transatlantic flights to Boston, due to begin whenever the pandemic allows. But the airline will also offer the suites on its New York to Los Angeles flights starting in June. 

For those with particularly unpleasant work-from-home setups, it might be worth buying a round-trip ticket just to be able to use one of these airborne offices.

Recommended Readings:

Leaked emails from one of the frontrunners for Amazon Web Services CEO reveal details about the cloud giant’s sales strategy

Snapchat’s teenage users are getting sextorted. Former employees say the company has been too slow to help.

Inside Robinhood’s 5 days of chaos

$1.6 billion bank Monzo is finalizing a $68 million funding extension from a new Silicon Valley investor

The ‘Godfather of Atlanta tech’ is helping founders eschew Silicon Valley by raising the largest fund in the Southeast

A Salesforce manager says she quit over ‘countless microaggressions and inequity’ at the $219 billion cloud-software giant

Not necessarily in tech:

I just spoke with hedge-fund billionaire Ray Dalio about the future of global capitalism. I’m worried.

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And as always, please reach out with rants, raves, and tips at [email protected]

— Alexei

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