Biz Stone on Twitter's Independence

More

It would be all too easy for the founders of Twitter to become revolutionary heroes. In 2009, when the Iranian people staged massive protests, the world learned about their ideals and their suffering through 140-character tweets. During the recent Arab spring, Twitter not only provided news but helped overthrow multiple governments.

The Ideas ReportBut cofounders Biz Stone and Evan Williams are shying away from the revolutionary label. In this video, Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson asks the pair a leading question: Is their invention a tool for democracy? After responding with blank silence, Stone explains why he and Williams aren't eager to align themselves with democratic ideals.

Stone and Williams have good reason for keeping their distance from the State Department. For one thing, they've got an image to maintain, not only as iconoclastic hipsters but as inventors of an appealingly simple technology. As Williams puts it earlier in this discussion, "We wanted to create products that were obvious and easy to use, and straightforward -- not tricky, not trying to be too clever."

There's another reason for Stone and Williams to avoid ideological labels. As Williams goes on to say in this discussion, being an Internet entrepreneur means thinking internationally. On this website and elsewhere, they've happily claimed credit for Twitter's success as a medium. But they won't let it become a message. If they want to stay on top of the world, they must keep their product as fluid and transparent as water. Stone and Williams may not be tricky, but no one can say they aren't clever.

More video from the 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival

Jump to comments
Presented by

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is The Atlantic's digital features editor. More

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, an Atlantic senior editor, began her association with the magazine in 2002, shortly after graduating from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She joined the staff full time in January 2006. Before coming to The Atlantic, Jennie was senior editor at Moment, a national magazine founded by Elie Wiesel.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In