Commentary

Does Dorsey's Return Foretell Brighter Times for Twitter?

It’s the stuff of tech-world legend. The brilliant CEO is banished by his board, only to come back and take the company he founded to new and greater heights. Steve Jobs did it. Now that Jack Dorsey has made his return to Twitter official, some are expecting him to fulfill a similar destiny.

I don’t think anyone doubts that Dorsey has grown as a person and a business leader. The flighty young CEO who used to leave work early for yoga class is surely gone. His hands-on experience turning Square into a PayPal killer made sure of that.

And, of course, Dorsey is saying all the right things. Everyone knows that Twitter’s core weaknesses remain its pace of development, lack of focus, mainstream utility and user appeal.

In response, Dorsey tweeted on Monday: “My focus is to build teams that move fast, and learn faster,” and “We're working hard at Twitter to focus our roadmap on a few things we can make really great,” and “Our work forward is to make Twitter easy to understand by anyone in the world, and give more utility to the people who love to use it daily!”

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Dorsey, however, has yet to prove himself worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Jobs. Unlike Apple -- or Facebook under Mark Zuckerberg -- Twitter and Square, where he is also CEO, remain relatively niche services with highly uncertain futures.   

Twitter’s user numbers are only part of the problem, but one that the company absolutely must solve to achieve any sort of scale. Simply put, until my Mom can figure out how to use Twitter -- and find a compelling reason to return regularly -- the company’s fortunes are dim.

Unfortunately for Dorsey, that sort of innovation will remain elusive without the industry’s top talent -- and, well, Twitter is no longer the shiniest toy in the chest.

“We're strengthening our team along the way,” Dorsey tweeted on Monday.

In truth, however, Twitter appears to be experiencing a major hiring slowdown. As a result, the social giant just scrapped plans to take over about 100,000 square feet of hot Bay Area office space, the San Francisco Business Times reported this weekend. “The deal breakdown comes as Twitter’s growth slows and its share price lags,” the business journal wrote.

Sure, maybe Dorsey’s official return will inspire star developers and strategists to give Twitter another look before heading to Snapchat, or starting a business of their own. With their help, maybe Twitter can convince users to spend their precious time on its platform instead of Facebook, Snapchat, or the next big social thing.

Then, when Twitter takes over the world, maybe Dorsey can steer the company through what are sure to be rough waters, while devoting a considerable amount of his time to Square.

These remain big maybes. I suspect Twitter's woes have become too great for even Steve Jobs to fix, let alone a mere mortal like Dorsey.

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