Twitter at 10 Years Old: User Growth Stalls, Chief Pledges to Make Changes

Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter, has laid off employees, hired new executives and shaken up the board since his return to the company last year. (Credit Richard Drew/Associated Press)
Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter, has laid off employees, hired new executives and shaken up the board since his return to the company last year. (Credit Richard Drew/Associated Press)

When Jack Dorsey returned last year as chief executive of Twitter, the social media company he co-founded, he had a mandate: Right a sinking ship.

Since then, Mr. Dorsey, 39, has laid off employees and deep-sixed an expansion of the company’s headquarters in San Francisco. He has appointed new executives and shaken up the company’s board. And when it comes to making changes to Twitter’s core product, nothing is sacred.

But change is not coming fast enough.

On Wednesday, after many quarters of slowing user growth, Twitter said its monthly visitors in the fourth quarter totaled 320 million — exactly the same as the company reported in the previous quarter. While the number was up 9 percent from a year ago, when monthly active users stood at 288 million, the figures showed that Mr. Dorsey’s recent moves have made little impact in attracting users.

Excluding Twitter’s followers who use a text-only version of the service, the company reported monthly users of 305 million at the end of the fourth quarter, down from 307 million in the previous quarter. Twitter heavily emphasized that the numbers were now on the rise; monthly visitors as of the end of January returned to the same levels as in late September.

The problem, Twitter said, is that in many ways its service is still not intuitive to use, and it comes with quirks that newcomers find difficult to grasp.

“We think there’s a lot of opportunity to fix the broken windows and confusing aspects of our product,” Mr. Dorsey said in a conference call with investors on Wednesday. He also emphasized the real-time nature of the service as the feature the company is most focused on building upon. “Twitter is live: live commentary, live conversations, live connections,” he said.

The results were released at a tricky time for the nine-year-old company, which has struggled to convince investors that it can live up to its goal of being able to reach every person on the planet. As user growth has decelerated, the pressure for Twitter to show that it can appeal to the public at large has been intensified by the specter of Facebook, which, with 1.59 billion users, is five times the size of Twitter.

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SOURCE: MIKE ISAAC 
The New York Times