On Monday, November 29, US time, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey stepped down as its CEO, handing the reins to 37-year-old Indian-American Parag Agrawal. Agrawal joined Twitter in October 2011, and was appointed in October 2017 as its chief technology officer.
Agrawal joins a list of Indian-American tech CEOs including Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Google parent Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai, Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen, Palo Alto Network’s Nikesh Arora, and IBM’s Arvind Krishna.
Here are some key facts about Agrawal:
Agrawal headed the company’s decentralized Bluesky platform
Announced in December 2019, Bluesky was the company’s major foray into blockchain technologies and decentralized architectures. Dorsey is supportive of these technologies, commonly referred to as Web3 technologies among other categorizations, including its current most popular application, Bitcoin.
In November 2021, Twitter also launched a dedicated crypto team. As The Verge pointed out in its story on Agrawal, the new CEO’s background in blockchain, the new crypto team, as well as Dorsey’s continued enthusiasm for the technology may hint at what’s in store for Twitter – with potential that it transitions to the “open and decentralized” standards that Bluesky was being built around.
MIT Review has an interview with Agrawal regarding misinformation. You can see the entire interview here, but here’s a piece of one of Agrawal’s quotes on defining misinformation:
“I think that’s the, the existential question of our times. Defining misinformation is really, really hard. As we learn through time, our understanding of truth also evolves. We attempt to not adjudicate truth, we focus on potential for harm. And when we say we lean on credible sources, we also lean on all the conversation on the platform that also gets to talk about these credible sources and points out potential gaps as a result of which the credible sources also evolve their thinking or what they talk about.”
Agrawal added they focus more on “potential for harm as a result of certain content being amplified on the platform” rather than what’s and what’s false.
Misinformation remains a big problem on social media platforms, and will be one of the issues on which the new CEO will be judged during his tenure.
Problems he’s dealt with
The Verge reported that Agrawal led efforts in 2018 to speed up development of Twitter technology so they can deploy new features faster. This has led to Twitter to proactively move from its own servers to cloud-based ones including Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services.
The site also noted Agrawal was there to fix significant issues in the past, including racial cropping issues with photo previews and explaining the 2018 Twitter password bug.
As for future issues, The Guardian noted Agrawal will be dealing with growth challenges amid challengers like TikTok, and Instagram, as well as ongoing issues on misinformation and hate speech.
Other work, educational background
According to his LinkedIn page, Agrawal had previously worked at Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AT&T, with his first listed job as part of a research team at Microsoft in 2006. He studied at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, and finished his PhD in Computer Studies at Stanford University.
“Let’s show the world Twitter’s full potential!”
“I joined this company 10 years ago when there were fewer than 1,000 employees…I’ve walked in your shoes, I’ve seen the ups and downs…There is no limit to what we can do together,” Agrawal says in an email to Jack Dorsey and the company after his promotion.
Agrawal posted the email online: