In a surprise move, Jack Dorsey today stepped down as Twitter CEO, giving way to Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal.
According to a press release, Agrawal, who has been with the company since 2011, has a Ph.D. in Computer Science and was the company's "first Distinguished Engineer due to his work across revenue and consumer engineering."
But what we really want to know is: What does his appointment mean for Twitter's involvement in Bitcoin and cryptocurrency more broadly?
Dorsey is a well-known proponent of Bitcoin who has publicly dismissed altcoins. Moreover, Dorsey's other company, payments firm Square, only allows one cryptocurrency for purchase on its Cash App: Bitcoin. And earlier this month, its uber-secretive TBD division released a white paper detailing a decentralized exchange for Bitcoin without so much as mentioning Ethereum, upon which the bulk of DEXes are built. "All of the other coins, for me, don't factor in at all," he said of Square's crypto plans.
Now, Agrawal is stepping into Dorsey's shoes (or meditation slippers) to lead a social media company that has dipped its toes into the crypto waters—with Agrawal doing much of the dipping as point person on Twitter's decentralized social media protocol project, bluesky, and the recently unveiled Twitter Crypto team.
A person with knowledge of the executive (but who declined to be named because they weren't authorized to speak publicly) told Decrypt, "Parag has been integral to Bluesky (the decentralized protocol project), so safe to say he's a crypto believer. And even if he weren't, Twitter needs audience and engagement growth, and crypto is a super-vital community to that."
Whereas Dorsey has been a public figure for the better part of a decade, Agrawal has made few public comments about anything, let alone cryptocurrency. The executive has only one tweet mentioning BTC: a November 2019 post about a Bitcoin meetup in Nigeria which used a fire emoji to convey the importance of the cryptocurrency to the African country. In fact, the social media company CTO, made just 10 tweets and 13 retweets in all of 2021, an average of one post every two weeks—and most of them didn't touch upon crypto.
But several provide clues to his thinking—or, at least, assurances that he could hold the company line. In August, he tweet-announced that former Zcash core developer Jay Graber would head Bluesky. And on November 10, he greeted former Tendermint Core VP of Engineering Tess Rinearson as the head of Twitter's crypto engineering team. He then retweeted other people's enthusiastic endorsements over what it would mean for decentralized protocols.
Rinearson and the Twitter Crypto team have been reporting directly to Agrawal since then, helping the company make good on a September announcement that Twitter would begin allowing tipping in Bitcoin and "explore NFTs for authentication." NFTs are blockchain-based deeds to digital or real-life assets; they originated on Ethereum and are making their way to other smart contract networks, such as Tezos, Avalanche, and Solana.
Super excited to welcome @_tessr to lead our Crypto engineering team. More about this team 👇 https://t.co/2PK7nXLJKd
— Parag Agrawal (@paraga) November 10, 2021
But the undercurrent of the conversation is whether Agrawal is a Bitcoin maximalist like Dorsey or more coin agnostic. That may be answered best by the people he's gathered around him. In addition to working on Tendermint's consensus engine, Rinearson is a board member at the Mina Foundation, which supports the lightweight blockchain, and a council member at the tech-ecumenical Interchain Foundation.
The early working group members of Bluesky, which were invited by Agrawal in 2020 per reporting from TechCrunch, don’t have a strong Bitcoin bent either. Early contributors included not only Zcash dev Graber, the lead author of a January 2021 ecosystem review, but also Protocol Labs Filecoin lead Molly Mackinlay, Matthew Hodgson of open-source encrypted messaging protocol Matrix, and cybersecurity researcher Ian Preston.
Web3? Check. Privacy oriented? Another (blue) check. Bitcoin only? Not verified.