Twitter Founder Reveals Secret Formula for Getting Rich Online
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BY RYAN TATE: That’s what he told the gathered tech heads at the recent XOXO conference in Portland, Oregon, and while he may have said this with tongue partly in cheek, he spent the next 30 minutes unloading his unified theory of the global computer network, an interpretation formed after 20 years of hard thinking — to say nothing of his experience creating seminal internet companies Blogger and Twitter.
In his speech, Williams explained what the internet is, how it works, and how to get rich from it. Truth be told, Williams is not the best public speaker, but his message was clear: At a time when so many internet entrepreneurs are running around Silicon Valley trying to do something no one else has ever done, Williams believes that the real trick is to find something that’s tried and true — and to do it better. It’s a speech that should serve as a signpost, a bit of much-needed direction for the Valley’s younger generation.
The bottom line, Williams said, is that the internet is “a giant machine designed to give people what they want.” It’s not a utopia. It’s not magical. It’s simply an engine of convenience. Those who can tune that engine well — who solve basic human problems with greater speed and simplicity than those who came before — will profit immensely. Those who lose sight of basic human needs — who want to give people the next great idea — will have problems.
“We often think of the internet enables you to do new things,” Williams said. “But people just want to do the same things they’ve always done.
In 1994, Williams was a Nebraska college dropout selling tutorial videos to help people get onto the net. In those videos, he described the global computer network as “a puzzle comprised of three things: Computers, information, and people.” But he no longer sees it that way.
After leaving Twitter in 2011 and helping to incubate, among other things, the blog network Medium, Williams found himself rethinking his original formulation. Computers have proliferated and diversified, in size and function, to the point of being unremarkable. Information has become similarly abundant, rendering the term unsatisfyingly generic. And after 20 years, the types of people and groups you find online are basically identical to the people and groups you find in the physical world. What’s now important are the connections between the people and the machines.
“There are hardware connections, then there are all these interactions involved with data and software,” Williams says. “And if you look at any big internet thing, you see it’s basically a big hive of connections. A Follow is a connection. A Like is a connection.