Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) hasn’t been having a very good week; its share price hit record lows earlier in the week, dropping below $16 for the first time in its more than two years since an initial public offering at $26, according to a report from The Independent. The micro-blogging platform, which has been criticized recently for its handling (or lack thereof) of abusive behavior from users, suffered a significant outage early in the week, precipitating the disastrous drop. Twitter’s share price has recently rallied somewhat, especially in the wake of a false News Corp takeover rumor, but is still down 25% this year.
In the wake of this disastrous start to the year, The Globe And Mail is reporting that several Twitter board members will be replaced on Monday. Rumor has it that media head Katie Jacobs Stanton, product head Kevin Weil, and head of engineering Alex Roetter will all be leaving Twitter. Less-verifiable rumors also cite head of Vine Jason Toff and business development leader Jana Messerschmidt as casualties; Messerschmidt had already expressed an unwillingness to continue with Twitter in the past.
Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that while details are sparse at the moment, Twitter is planning to appoint two new board positions in excess of their current eight-member board, and that one will be a “high-profile media personality.” They also allegedly plan to appoint a new chief marketing officer – something that Twitter sorely needs right now, in the wake of a 55 percent drop in share price over the last year.
Twitter’s investors are justifiably worried; at its height, Twitter looked like it would rival services like Facebook and Instagram (itself acquired by Facebook) in popularity, but the service has continued to falter since its IPO in spite of attempts to align itself with major figures; many Twitter personalities, such as writer/comedian Peter Coffin, have been emphatic in suggesting that Twitter’s failure to enforce their own rules about “targeted hostility” bears significant responsibility for the shrinking community.
“Really hostile people love sites with lenient TOS (which Twitter actuallyis not guilty of) or lackluster enforcement (which Twitter is), and a community of aggressive or violent people is a small community that shrinks rather than grows.”
“If I’m supposed to expect an avalanche of hatred for posting fairly innocuous opinions or criticisms, why should I sign up for that social network? Why should I spend my time contributing there? What is the point?”
Investors, on the other hand, are starting to make connections between the reinstatement of former CEO Jack Dorsey (and subsequent layoffs and new appointments) and Twitter’s falling stock prices, and Dorsey knows it. Lately he’s been publicly critiquing his own company and making bold, if somewhat vague, statements about what needs to be done to revive Twitter.
“A greater clarity of our purpose, our objectives and putting the people that use Twitter first drives the urgency we now feel. You should expect Twitter to be as easy as looking out your window to see what’s happening.”
Twitter has also, as reported by the New York Times, come under fire from users recently for suggesting that they will be significantly increasing the number of characters allowed per tweet – from 140 to possibly 5,000 or 10,000 – suggesting that even Twitter doesn’t know what Twitter is for; such a move will probably come as great news to harassers and advertisers, but they’ll inevitably be disappointed as more users leave the site for greener pastures.
Hopefully, Twitter’s new board will offer some much-needed outsider input on the problems Twitter is facing today; one reason the changes are being made is that Twitter’s board has faced significant criticism for being too insular and filled with company insiders, and Dorsey has at least expressed a desire to bring more outside perspectives on-board. With luck, they’ll understand who Twitter’s “mainstream users” are and what Twitter needs to prosper.
[Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Vanity Fair]