When Jack Dorsey abruptly stepped down as Twitter’s CEO on Monday, he handed the reins to Parag Agrawal, a software engineer who has become one of Dorsey’s closest allies in shaping the social media company’s future.
Dorsey’s confidence in Agrawal as CEO is “extremely deep,” the outgoing chief told staff at E-mail on Monday. “It has been my choice for some time given how deeply he understands the company and its needs,” Dorsey wrote.
Twitter insiders say Agrawal is a close confidant of Dorsey who shares the co-founder’s vision for a future in which Twitter is working on technology that gives users greater control. They are both fans of cryptocurrency and blockchain, which they expect will play a major role in the future of Twitter.
Agrawal has been closely involved in related projects on Twitter. He has been making efforts to allow users to send tips with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and recently appointed a new dedicated cryptocurrency team leader. He also oversees the company’s Bluesky project, which aims to build decentralized social networking software that can run on any number of platforms.
However, some current and former employees told NPR they were surprised that Agrawal was appointed to the position, given that his in-company profile is lower than others in the Twitter executive ranks. He’s also little known outside the company, unlike Dorsey, whose health habits are eccentric (he said Wired Magazine In 2020, he only eats one meal a day and tries to spend two hours a day meditating), a long beard and an obsession with bitcoin has made headlines for years.
The 37-year-old Agrawal is a computer scientist who studied at the Indian Institute of Technology and Stanford University before joining Twitter a decade ago. He worked on advertising the products and architecture of the company. In 2017, Dorsey appointed him Chief Technology Officer.
in his own E-mail To Twitter employees, Agrawal noted that when he joined, the company had fewer than 1,000 employees.
He wrote, “I have walked where you are, I have seen the ups and downs, the challenges and obstacles, the ups and downs.”
He worked on machine learning and other technical developments that enabled Twitter to roll out new features and products more quickly, as he tried to shed its reputation for slow innovation.
Agrawal also defended an internal team of researchers investigating whether Twitter’s algorithms are fair. This team recently published research that found its automated image-cropping system favored white faces, and Twitter announced that it would abandon the program.
“Baraj was behind every critical decision that helped change the direction of this company,” Dorsey wrote.
The delivery comes at a critical moment for major social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
“There is a great deal of heat and a lot of friction and politics associated with being these social networks that a lot of public conversation is about,” said Margaret O’Mara, a Silicon Valley historian at the University of Washington.
“Mark Zuckerberg is looking to the metaverse,” she said, referring to Facebook’s recent focus on building immersive virtual reality experiences and rebranding the company as Meta.
“Maybe Twitter is looking at, ‘What is the next generation social network?'” she asked. Will it be more decentralized? Will it be more user-controlled? “
It is up to Agrawal to answer these questions.