Twitter Leadership: A Noah Glass Biography

Taking a closer look at the life and career of Noah Glass, Twitter's odd man out

Noah Glass
Noah Glass. Photo courtesy Twitter.

The person who first called Twitter "Twitter" must be raking in millions and millions of dollars these days, right? Not so much. Noah Glass (@noah), an integral part of the service's founding and the guy who came up with one of the world's most famous company names, was ousted long ago. In fact, when the Twitter story is casually recounted as creation myth, his name is often left out.

So, what's the real story?

After working at Industrial Light and Magic, Glass was a co-founder of Odeo, the failed podcasting company that would form an unlikely bridge to Twitter. Ev Williams, Odeo's CEO, put Glass in charge of the social messaging project that Jack Dorsey and Biz Stone were instrumental in conceiving, as well.

Glass undertook the assignment with a passion as a true believer in Twitter's potential. But by 2006, when Twitter launched, Williams had fired him. Dorsey is said to have approached Williams about Glass's dismissal, but the working relationship between Williams and Glass had become increasingly strained, anyway, due to differences in personality and work style. You can read a complete history of Twitter's early days in Nick Bilton's highly recommended Hatching Twitter.

Wrote D.T. Max in an excellent 2013 profile of Dorsey:

"Eventually, the decision was made to fire Glass. Bilton reports that Dorsey threatened to quit unless Glass was forced out. Dorsey says otherwise: 'I didn’t give an ultimatum. ... I didn’t have that leverage. Ev made his decision.' As Dorsey recalls it, 'Ev asked me, "Should we let Noah go?" And I said, "I don’t think I can work with him in his current state."' Zachary recalls Williams announcing that he was going to fire Glass, because 'no one wanted to deal with him.'"

Subsequent years saw Glass come away with stock and "a small amount of cash," as he told Business Insider, and not much else as Twitter has grown:

"I was not in the story, which in some ways was difficult to deal with in the beginning, since it was a massive labor of love and a massive labor to get it created. To create the thing, to bring it into the world. It was a ton of effort and a ton of energy.

To not be included in the story was hard to swallow at first, but when I realized what was happening to the product, this thing I helped create, the thing's not about me. The thing's about itself. Twitter is a phenomenon and a massively beneficial tool and it's incredibly useful and it helps a lot of people. I realized the story's not about me. That's okay.

That's a thing I want to reiterate — you're trying to look for the full story. Some people have gotten credit, some people haven't. The reality is it was a group effort. There were lots of people putting ideas into and it couldn't have been done without this group of people. Whether or not there's individuals who get credit or don't get credit, that may be totally irrelevant. It was a collaboration. And it was almost a collaboration that came out of necessity.

I didn't create Twitter on my own. It came out of conversations. I do know that without me, Twitter wouldn't exist. In a huge way. But the same is true without Jack. And to some degree it's true without Ev. Ev was involved.

Biz was involved more than Ev. Ev wasn't involved at all for the creation and launching of it. He'd come in and we'd talk occasionally. I think during a lot of the time he was working on the idea of buying back Odeo. I was working on Twitter, and very intensely."

 

Today, Noah Glass lives in San Francisco with his family. He's currently working on "projects that could be something big if they get fleshed out," he told Business Insider. His Twitter account – with "i started this" as his bio – has not been updated since September of 2013. His last Tweet?

"I wish the twitter team the best of luck and trust that they will be successful in continuing to develop this important communication tool."

For his part, Williams took to Twitter to acknowledge Glass's contributions in 2011:

"It's true that @Noah never got enough credit for his early role at Twitter. Also, he came up with the name, which was brilliant."