An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2013: Spoiler alert: The subtitle sorta says it all. That is, Nick Bilton’s Hatching Twitter delivers “A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal,” though not necessarily in that order. The book’s four central players–Ev, Jack, Biz, and Noah–conceived of Twitter while working on Odeo, an ultimately doomed attempt to revolutionize podcasting. As their little chick grew, the four men’s personal and ideological differences led to a power struggle that eventually left them all on the sidelines as a former stand-up comedian took Twitter into the uncertain future. Writing with the pacing and veracity of detail of a true-crime book, Bilton makes use of a trove of source material–from internal Twitter e-mails to extensive interviews with and early tweets by the founders themselves–and the result is as exciting and fast-paced as it is topically relevant. If you’re looking for a thoughtful rumination about Twitter as a revolutionary global communications platform, keep looking. If you’re looking for a quick, well-written, thoroughly researched human drama, the story of an utterly dysfunctional foursome and the accelerated unraveling of their once brilliant partnership, this is your book.
In 2005, Odeo was a struggling podcasting start-up founded by free-range hacker Noah Glass and staffed by a motley crew of anarchists. Less than two years later, its days were numbered and half the staff had been let go. But out of Odeo’s ashes, the remaining employees worked on a little side venture . . . that by 2013 had become an $11.5 billion business.
That much is widely known. But the full story of Twitter’s hatching has never been told before. It’s a drama of betrayed friendships and high-stakes power struggles, as the founders went from everyday engineers to wealthy celebrities featured on magazine covers, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Daily Show, and Time’s list of the world’s most influential people.