Twitter's Head of Design Mike Davidson announces departure

Steven Loeb · December 15, 2015 · Short URL:

Davidson had been with Twitter since 2012, and is one of many execs to leave in the last two years

As Jack Dorsey tries to get Twitter back on its feet, the last thing he needs is for his executives to start leaving. But that seems to be what has begun to happen, with three of them announcing their departures in the last couple of weeks. 

The latest is Mike Davidson, Twitter's Head of Design, who announced on Twitter on Monday that he will be leaving the company in a couple of months.

Davidson has been with Twitter since 2012. Before that he was Founding CEO and Creative Director of Newsvine, which was acquired by MSNBC in 2007. He was also Director of Media Product Development Walt Disney Internet Group, and Art Director at

This is a big blow for Twitter, as Davidson was in charge of user experience of all products and services at Twitter, something the company has been putting a lot of emphasis on, as it attempts to get more people onto the platform.

That has included the launch of became Moments, a feature that is designed to curate content by aggregating Tweets and photos from live events and breaking-news. Dorsey said that the feature " represents a real, fundamental shift in our thinking," one that makes it easier for new users to come onto Twitter without feeling intimidated or left out.

Reports have also come saying the company is looking into breaking the traditional 140-character limit, which would allow Twitter users to publish long-form content to the service, and it has begun testing out altering the layout of its timeline. All of these things relied on the design aspect to make new users comfortable.

Twitter may have an even bigger problem as its executive exodus, which was like a wave in 2014, seems to have continued this year.

In just the last two weeks Twitter lost Davidson, as well as engineer Utkarsh Srivastava, who helped the company build its ads business, and it also saw the departure of Glenn Otis Brown, who has been heading up Twitter’s video ad program. Srivastava left for Google, while Brown went to Betaworks.

In 2014, Twitter lost engineering SVP Chris Fry departed the company, as well as Chloe Sladden, its VP of Media, and COO Ali Rowghani.

Rowghani's duties were split between two other executives: Adam Bain, who had been head of revenue at the company, was given the addition title of head of business development. And Gabriel Stricker, who had been vice president of marketing and communications, was put in charge of overseeing the entire media team at Twitter.

Stricker left the company in June of this year, while Bain became COO in October.

The biggest departure, though, was, of course, that of CEO Dick Costolo in June. After struggling mightily to get Twitter back on its feet, and to get its user numbers back up, he was forced to resign his position over the summer. Not only that, but he also resigned from the board of directors as well. Now he officially has no ties to the company he ran for nearly five years.

Twitter, and Dorsey, are trying hard to get Twitter to a place where it can once again be accessible to the average user. Maybe getting some new blood in there isn't the worst idea.

There is no word yet on if Twitter has a replacement in mind for Davidson, nor who that may be.  VatorNews reached out to Twitter for additional comment, but the company had nothing to say beyond Davidson's Tweets. 

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.