Thursday, February 9, 2012

Think Differently (In 140 Characters or Less)

Many have said that the late Steve Jobs, former CEO of both Apple Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios, taught the world how to "think differently" by creating products that the consumer did not know they needed but then could not live without. It can be argued that Jobs and his consumer electronics company redefined an industry and changed the way human beings connect and communicate through advances in technologies in computers, tablets, and cell phones.

Jack Dorsey, Founder of Twitter, Inc. and Square, Inc.

One man who has greatly been influenced by Jobs' work and who has expanded the functionality of many of Apple Inc.'s products is Jack Dorsey. Dorsey may not be as well-known as his contemporary, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, yet he has arguably been just as, if not more, influential. If you have ever "tweeted" something to share with your social network in the cyber world, you have Dorsey to thank for that.

Jack Dorsey grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and became interested at a young age in creating software that could be used to dispatch couriers, taxis, and emergency services from the internet. In the early 2000s, sites such as LiveJournal and AOL Instant Messenger began providing internet users with an outlet to communicate with peers and express themselves online. Influenced by his dispatch software background and inspired by these new social media sites, Dorsey envisioned a service that could provide real-time, short-message status updates utilizing the SMS (text message) technology available on most cell phones. He created a prototype that would evolve into Twitter in about two weeks. Twitter launched in July of 2006, and Dorsey vowed that his company would focus on "simplicity, constraint and craftsmanship." Today, Twitter has over 300 million users generating over 300 million "tweets" (personal status updates of 140 characters or less) per day and has become for many users a primary means of communication.

 Jack Dorsey describes how Twitter and Square are connected "utilities" for their users.

Dorsey found much success in Twitter, and while he remains the company's Executive Chairman, he left his day-to-day leadership role in the company to develop his next project, Square, Inc. Dorsey was inspired to create Square in 2009 after an artist friend lost a high dollar sale due to his inability to accept and process credit card payments. Dorsey envisioned a simple, efficient app that could be created using technologies already available in iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. He and his team created a small plastic device that they distribute for free that can be inserted into the audio jack of a smart phone or tablet. Users create an account directly linked to their checking account and a 2.75% fee is charged per transaction processed through the device. Clients or customers are able to use their finger to sign for their purchases on the device's touch screen, and a receipt can be emailed to the consumer.

 Twitter and Square creator Jack Dorsey discusses his new product, Square.

Dorsey attributes both Twitter and Square's success to the fact that the products are "utilities" that anyone can take advantage from an individual holding a garage sale to a large global organization. A seven-year-old girl running a lemonade stand now has the ability to accept Visa or MasterCard as payment for a fifty cent cup of lemonade she is selling in her driveway thanks to Mr. Dorsey. Jack Dorsey envisions his two companies as being a foundation that small start-up companies and independent artists and contractors can utilize to quickly and easily get off the ground. 

Dorsey did not found either company to solve any drastic problems, yet both companies' products have established themselves in unique niches within the social media and consumer marketplaces. Due to his vision, people have redefined how they communicate and buy things. While neither of these elements of societal interactions were necessarily flawed or problematic prior to Jack Dorsey entering the scene, his products' impacts on the world are now immeasurable. Like Mr. Jobs, Mr. Dorsey has created products that we did not know how much we needed until they were introduced to us. Furthermore, like the late Mr. Jobs at Apple, Jack Dorsey has every intention to further improve the capabilities and services of his companies. His products' real potentials, however, lie in the fact that they now rest in the public domain. Through the use of these technologies, other people can continue to redefine the world in which we all live. Through use of Twitter and Square, anyone has the ability to possibly become the next Jack Dorsey or Steve Jobs and to "think differently."


  1. I agree that Jack Dorsey is a highly creative man who usually does not get the credit he deserved. I don't know much about Square, but Twitter has had such an impact. It is such a simple idea, yet it has completely revolutionized the way people communicate. The concept of hashtagging, which began on Twitter, has moved onto Facebook, memes, and even occasionally into real life. (Haven't you ever told anyone they had a 'first world problem?') Educators are even speculating that the 140-character limit is impacting the way students read and write. Since I don't know that much about Square, I'm a little confused about how it works. Where do you get this little plastic chip? Does it work for all transactions--or do certain places not accept it? It definitely seems and feels a little bit strange to me and I definitely agree with the idea that there is no "need" for it. But it has created such an impact on society anyway.

  2. Coming from a journalism background, I can attest that Twitter has completely revolutionized the way news is spread. Not only can news sources disseminate information on a particular subject, the user can also hear from the subject of the news first-hand. Additionally, information if fragmented into 140-word bits, which accommodates the ever-shrinking attention span of our time. While there really isn't a pressing need for Twitter, it did provide a way to inform the otherwise uninterested and uninformed, and certainly helps indulge the news junkie (aka myself).


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