Evan Williams

Evan Williams Biography.com

Blogger/Internet(1972–)
Self-made billionaire and internet mogul Evan Williams is best known for co-founding Twitter, a social-networking website used by millions worldwide.

Synopsis

Born in Nebraska in 1972, Evan Williams co-founded Pyra Labs, Blogger, Odeo and the Obvious Corporation, which evolved into Twitter, an online social-networking and micro-blogging site. Based in San Francisco, Twitter Inc. became a public company in 2013, making Williams a billionaire. More recently, Williams co-created the publishing platform Medium.

Early Years

Evan Clark Williams was born into a farming family on March 31, 1972, in the small town of Clarks, Nebraska. He attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln for a year and a half, leaving to pursue a career based in information systems.

Not long after, Williams was writing computer code and freelancing for both Hewlett-Packard and Intel. He and Meg Hourihan co-founded Pyra Labs as well as its spinoff, Blogger—an early application for making and managing abbreviated writing for the web, also known as blogging.

In 2003, Williams was named to MIT Technology Review magazine's "top 100 innovators under age 35" list. That same year, Blogger was acquired by Google.

In 2004, Williams was named a "Person of the Year" by PC Magazine for his work on Blogger. That same year, the famed entrepreneur founded the podcast company Odeo. In 2006, he co-founded the Obvious Corporation with Biz Stone, Jack Dorsey and Noah Glass.

Founding Twitter

Obvious Corp. evolved into Twitter—or Twittr, as it was first called—an online social-networking and micro-blogging site allowing users to post short messages—instantly and in real time—of 140 characters or less, known as "tweets." The service rapidly gained worldwide popularity, growing to 500 million registered users who tweeted approximately 340 million messages daily in 2012.

Serving as Twitter's first chairman, Evan Williams provided much of the company's early financing. In October 2008, Williams replaced Dorsey as Twitter's CEO—a position that he would hold for the next two years. (In turn, Dorsey became company chairman in 2008.)

In an interview with MIT Technology Review in 2007, Williams called Twitter—which is based in San Francisco and has offices in New York City, Boston, San Antonio and Detroit—"a no-brainer" for "social animals." "People like other people," he stated. "So hearing from them, and being able to express yourself to people you care about in a really simple way, is fun, and it can be addictive." Williams shared similar sentiments more recently, in a September 2013 interview with Wired.com, stating, "We often think of the internet enables you to do new things. But people just want to do the same things they've always done." He later added, "Convenience on the internet is basically achieved by two things: speed, and cognitive ease ... The internet is not what I thought it was 20 years ago. It's not a utopian world. It's essentially like a lot of other major technological revolutions that have taken place in the history of the world."

Twitter became a powerful platform for U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008, with both politicians using the website to update their supporters while on the campaign trail. The site became internationally known during the 2009 presidential elections in Iran, after the Iranian government blocked text-messaging and satellite feeds of foreign news coverage, and tweeting, subsequently, became the way to get information in and out.

On September 25, 2012, Williams and Stone created a new publishing platform called Medium, a simple site backed by Obvious Corp. where bloggers can share ideas and stories of more than 140 characters; the site also allows graphics.

Twitter Goes Public

Twitter Inc. went public in November 2013, listed as TWTR when the stock market opened in New York City. According to the October 2013 Securities Exchange Commission, Williams's 12 percent stake in the company was worth $1.5 billion when the site went public.

Williams lives in San Francisco with his wife, Sara, and their two sons.

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