Pat Riley, Once Front and Center, Reigns in the Background
Jack Dorsey has barely posted on Twitter, the social media platform he helped create, since January. In two of his last tweets, the 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.”
, Mr. Dorsey has posted on Nostr an average of 59 times a day — including messages that take aim at Twitter and its new owner, Elon Musk.
“This is weak,” Mr. Dorsey wrote on Nostr last month of Mr. Musk’s move to prevent Twitter’s users from linking to Substack, a newsletter platform that started a Twitter competitor.
Mr. Dorsey has also started using another new social network, Bluesky. On Saturday, in response to a Bluesky user’s question about whether Mr. Musk was the best steward for Twitter, Mr. Dorsey replied bluntly, “No.”
“It all went south,” he said of what Mr. Musk had done at Twitter. “But it happened and all we can do now is build something to avoid that ever happening again.”
46, the Bitcoin-loving techie who was for years the most prominent face of Twitter, 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 Mr. Dorsey posts about is aligned with his interests in cryptocurrency and open source technology, where code is made public so people can tinker and reuse it. But he has also openly criticized Mr. Musk’s ownership of Twitter, becoming the latest in a long line of Silicon Valley founders who express disappointment in those who take over their companies.
Mr. Dorsey is also putting his money where his posts are by backing Twitter’s new competitors. In 2019, while 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 Bitcoin, worth about $250,000 at the time, to the pseudonymous creator of Nostr, who goes by the handle “fiatjaf.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he is withholding his voice from Twitter out of some principle,” Jason Goldman, a member of Twitter’s founding team who has also served on its board, said of Mr. Dorsey’s recent actions. He added that in his latest comments, Mr. Dorsey “acknowledges how poorly things have gone for Twitter under Elon Musk.”
Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Musk did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Dorsey, who helped found Twitter in 2006, was the company’s chief executive for eight years over two different stints. And while the social network’s success turned him into a billionaire, he appeared to become disillusioned in recent years with Twitter’s direction.
Inside Elon Musk’s Twitter
- Blue Check Marks: Twitter began removing check mark icons from the profiles of thousands of celebrities, politicians and journalists, in one of the most visible indicators of how Elon Musk is changing the company.
- A Changing Landscape: The elimination of the check marks, which historically served as a means of identifying public agencies, has convulsed Twitter as information on the platform becomes increasingly unreliable.
- ‘Government-Funded’ Labels: Twitter has removed labels that described prominent news organizations as “government-funded” or “state-affiliated” after NPR and public broadcasters in several countries criticized the labels as misleading and suspended the use of their accounts.
Among other things, Mr. Dorsey, who supports free speech, lamented that Twitter had become too powerful as an arbiter of what kind of posts should stay online and what should be pulled down. He also blamed Wall Street for turning Twitter away from its primary role as a communications platform, pressuring it to make money and to eventually sell itself to the highest bidder.
In November 2021, Mr. Dorsey, who also leads the payments start-up Block (formerly known as Square), stepped down as Twitter’s chief executive. He left its board last year after Mr. Musk bid for the company.
has since said that Twitter should have been built as a different kind of social network: a decentralized one. Unlike mainstream social platforms, which run private code that they control, decentralized social networks make their systems public so users can potentially build their own apps and communities. That way, no single entity can impose rules on what can or can’t be said in these networks, and users can customize their experiences.
“The problem today is that we have companies who own both” the technology and the algorithms that show posts, which “ultimately puts one person in charge of what’s available and seen, or not,” Mr. Dorsey wrote in a December blog post that he shared on Nostr. “This is by definition a single point of failure, no matter how great the person, and over time will fracture the public conversation, and may lead to more control by governments and corporations around the world.”
the editor of the blog TechDirt and a tech policy expert, said decentralized networks “allow for a lot more experimentation and attempts to do things in a different way.” But he cautioned that they also face challenges in complying with content moderation laws, like the Digital Services Act in Europe or U.S. copyright law.
Mr. Dorsey has been interested in decentralized social platforms since at least 2019, when he began working on Bluesky, and has a longstanding interest in Bitcoin, a popular cryptocurrency. He joined Nostr — the acronym stands for “notes and other stuff transmitted by relays” — in December. Nostr also lets users send each other small cryptocurrency payments, which are called “zaps.”
Fiatjaf, Nostr’s creator, said in an email that Mr. Dorsey’s support “has been a game changer, but much less in terms of funding than in the amount of awareness and enthusiasm he has generated about Nostr.” He added, “We’re hoping the funding part will start playing a bigger role eventually.”
, which declined to comment, said in a blog post that Mr. Dorsey remains on its board. (Twitter severed its relationship with Bluesky after Mr. Musk took over.)
Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Musk have long had an up-and-down relationship. When Mr. Musk bid for Twitter last year, Mr. Dorsey endorsed the effort.
“In principle, I don’t believe anyone should own or run Twitter,” Mr. Dorsey wrote on Twitter at the time. “Solving for the problem of it being a company however, Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness.”
But after Mr. Musk bought Twitter in October, he immediately fired many of Mr. Dorsey’s handpicked executives. Mr. Musk has since laid off about 75 percent of Twitter’s work force, refused to pay rent for some of its offices and made sweeping and sometimes contradictory changes to its content moderation policies.
As Mr. Dorsey has posted on Nostr and then Bluesky, his critiques about Mr. Musk and Twitter have piled up.
In some posts, Mr. Dorsey has chided Twitter for its repeated service disruptions. Last month, he implied on Nostr that Twitter’s users could leave the platform if they wanted. He also scoffed at Mr. Musk’s move to charge Twitter’s users $8 a month for a check mark, a symbol that once denoted a verified identity on the platform.
But Mr. Dorsey’s sharpest appraisal of Mr. Musk’s leadership came over the weekend on Bluesky, where Mr. Dorsey has more than 11,000 followers. (He has more than six million followers on Twitter.)
On Saturday, Mr. 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 raiders and added that Mr. Musk “should have walked away” from buying Twitter.
who was among the Bluesky users who questioned Mr. Dorsey over the weekend, said the comments don’t take into account how Mr. Dorsey led Twitter for years and is also accountable for where the company ended up.
“He blames the inevitability of market forces, despite leading the company as either executive chairman or C.E.O. for over a decade,” Mr. Goldman said of Mr. Dorsey.
On Sunday, Mr. Dorsey returned to posting on Nostr, where he has 134,000 followers. He said he regretted taking Twitter public and making it a company in the first place.
He also leavened his criticisms of Mr. Musk by praising the Twitter owner’s efforts to make the site less dependent on brand advertising, which makes up 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 hasty moves,” Mr. Dorsey wrote. “I hope he realizes eventually that basing it on an open protocol like this solves many of the problems and enables a pretty incredible business. We shall see.”