Evan Williams, the co-founder and chief executive of Twitter, is stepping down to lead product strategy at the company, Twitter announced in a post on the company blog on Monday. Dick Costolo, the chief operating officer, will succeed Mr. Williams.
Mr. Costolo is a three-time chief executive, most recently at FeedBurner, which he helped to found and sold to Google in 2007.
He will take over the day-to-day duties of running and expanding the company and continue to be the public face of its financial side.
He made the company presentation to advertising executives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s conference in New York last week, alongside executives from Facebook and Google.
Mr Williams said he planned to focus on product strategy. “I am most satisfied while pushing product direction,” he said. “Building things is my passion, and I’ve never been more excited or optimistic about what we have to build.
“This is why I have decided to ask our COO, Dick Costolo, to become Twitter’s CEO,” he said. “Starting today, I’ll be completely focused on product strategy.”
Mr Williams said Mr Costolo has been a “critical leader in devising and executing our revenue efforts, while simultaneously and effectively making the trains run on time in the office.
“Given Dick’s track record as a three-time successful CEO, I’m confident we can make this a smooth transition,” he said.
Twitter, which allows users to fire off messages of 140 characters or less known as “tweets,” has enjoyed skyrocketing popularity since it was launched in 2006 by Williams, Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone.
Mr Williams said Twitter now employs around 300 people, up from 20 when he took over as CEO from Dorsey two years ago. Dorsey is presently Twitter’s chairman while Stone serves as “creative director.”
“In those same two years, we grew from three million registered users to more than 165 million today,” Williams said. “By all accounts Twitter is on a roll. We’ve redesigned our website to great user feedback.
“Our user and usage numbers are growing at a rapid clip all around the world,” he said. “We’ve launched an early, but successful, monetization effort.”
The Twitter co-founder also added that “growing big is not success, in itself. “Success to us means meeting our potential as a profitable company that can retain its culture and user focus while having a positive impact on the world,” he said.
Mr. Williams’s new role will be a homecoming. He was chief product officer of Twitter before replacing Jack Dorsey, another Twitter co-founder, as chief executive at the end of 2008.
Mr. Williams and Mr. Costolo have been friends for years, and Mr. Costolo was an early investor in Twitter. When he moved to the Bay Area last year, he wrote a Twitter post explaining to his mortgage broker that he was unemployed.
Mr. Williams replied with a private Twitter post asking Mr. Costolo if he wanted to be interim chief executive while Mr. Williams went on paternity leave.
“I don’t know if you’re joking,” Mr. Williams recalls the response from Mr. Costolo, who was once an improvisational comedian. “If so, good one. If not, let’s talk.”
Mr Williams’ departure comes just three weeks after Twitter unveiled an overhauled website that lets people more easily sift through the growing mountain of micro-messages and creates more opportunity for advertising.
Twitter’s “Promoted Tweets” advertising service allows companies and others to place “tweets” at the top of a page of search results.
Dan Frommer of Silicon Valley technology blog BusinessInsider.com said Williams had done a good job scaling up the company and it was “time to use Twitter’s hit product and huge audience to print cash.”
“It’s clearly Dick Costolo’s job now to turn Twitter into a real business, judged by the amount of revenue it can generate, not just the amount of tweets it can generate,” he said. “And it’s obvious that he’s a better man for that job than Williams is.” [via Twitter Blog]