Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Downplays Acquisition Chatter, Touting Platform’s ‘Independence’

Is Twitter for sale? CEO Jack Dorsey seemed to wave off the idea that the company is looking for a buyer, saying at an investment conference that he sees value in Twitter remaining independent.

“I’ve always felt there’s a lot of strength to our independence,” Dorsey said, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference 2018 in San Francisco. The exec had been asked if he saw any advantages to being part of a larger company. Twitter is not “constrained” by any one platform, he said, and that “we can work through any medium.”

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Twitter would not be open to an M&A overture of the right one came along.

Wall Street analysts have regularly speculated that Twitter could be a takeover candidate by a larger tech or media company, not least because of the huge trove of data it aggregates. In 2016, Disney, Google and Salesforce.com had been interested in acquiring Twitter but no deal came to pass.

Twitter last week reported the first profitable quarter in its nearly 12-year history thanks to cost-cutting measures, driving the company’s stock to two-year highs. However, Twitter’s total monthly active users during the fourth quarter of 2017 stayed flat with the previous quarter, at an average of about 330 million, with the company citing a purge of fake and malicious accounts and a change Apple made to the Safari browser’s third-party app integration.

The No. 1 focus for the company right now is understanding the “overall cohesive, comprehensive health of the platform,” Dorsey said.

That includes Twitter’s efforts to improve safety and reduce the spread of misinformation, “but it’s much broader than that,” Dorsey added. He said the company’s efforts to improve “information quality” extend to providing tools to help users ascertain a source’s credibility.

“Twitter is a very good mirror for what’s going on in the world,” Dorsey said. “At our worst it makes people be a lot more reflexive, and at our best it encourages people to be a lot more reflective.”

Regarding Twitter’s text-centric nature, he commented, “We kind of got stuck in the age of typing. Sometimes, based on the context you’re in, you want to watch a video or see an image.”

Dorsey pointed to Twitter’s live-video strategy as a start, but admitted that right now Twitter doesn’t have any organizing mechanism for finding or following live events. “That’s what we’re working on,” he said.

Twitter needs a better way to help users find video that’s relevant to their interests, Dorsey said. But that won’t include a separate tab or section. “We’ve had a lot of requests to create a video tab… I think that’s a thing of the past.” Facebook last summer launched Watch, a new video destination in its apps to serve as a home for longer-form, episodic content.

Asked about his dual role as CEO of both Twitter and online-payments firm Square, Dorsey responded that “we’ve been able to overcome a lot of those challenges.” He said he’s now been able to achieve a “steady state” in which he is “less reactive” in managing each company.

Twitter COO Anthony Noto departed the company last month to join online-lending startup SoFi as CEO. Dorsey told analysts on the earnings call last week that Twitter wasn’t seeking to hire an exec to fill Noto’s role.

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