Liz Gannes

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Jack Dorsey: Twitter’s Not Really Social

What are the most important words to describe Twitter versus its competitors? “Public,” “real-time” and “simplicity,” said Twitter co-founder and executive chairman Jack Dorsey today in a talk at the DLD conference in Munich.

Jack Dorsey at AsiaD

What about “social”? Not so much, Dorsey said. Twitter is a way to learn about what your friends are doing, but more than that it’s a way to learn about what other people who are relevant to you, from all over the world, are doing.

“We definitely see social as just one part of what people do on Twitter,” Dorsey said. “We think of it as an information utility and a communications network.”

Twitter also beats players like Google+ and Facebook by being more accessible, Dorsey argued. You don’t have to tweet to get value out of Twitter. Twitter is both a destination and a distribution channel. And the service “works on every single device on the planet today,” he said.

(Correction/quibble: Twitter works on every networked device! It’s not currently working on my cellphone, which is in airplane mode while I’m traveling in Germany.)

Even in the post-SOPA glow of U.S. Congresspeople reversing themselves on anti-piracy bills after Internet protests and dissent last week, Dorsey was less committed to describing Twitter as a tool of democracy.

Dorsey did say he sees feedback and opinions surfacing more directly than ever before. So during the SOPA debate, congresspeople could see what their constituents are saying about the legislation from their phones, in real time.

“The question is what do we do with that,” Dorsey said.

Though Dorsey was also representing himself at DLD in his second full-time role as CEO of the payments company Square, he got fewer questions about that — probably because Square is not yet available outside the United States.

Dorsey said Square is looking closely at Asia, including China. It seems like a natural fit because many people in Asia have already stopped carrying cash, he said.

Of Square, Dorsey said, “We’re going to work very, very hard this year to go outside the United States.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work