|Marc Andreessen’s Sudden Silence on Twitter Stumps Silicon Valley |
Venture capitalist and web pioneer’s last tweet: ‘Taking a Twitter break!’
By Rolfe Winkler
The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 30, 2016 3:10 p.m. ET
Marc Andreessen Photo: Bloomberg News
Venture capitalist and technology evangelist Marc Andreessen has been among the most prolific Twitter TWTR 0.17 % users, deluging his more than half-million followers at all hours with wide-ranging witticisms, postulates and statistics.
So since he suddenly stopped tweeting last Saturday, his silence on the social-media site has been deafening in Silicon Valley. Techies and tech journalists have taken to Twitter to speculate about the mystery of his virtual disappearance, including his decision to simultaneously delete all of his previous tweets.
Mr. Andreessen, co-founder of venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, offered little explanation with his late-night announcement, simply tweeting: “Taking a Twitter break!”
He has since suggested that tweeting was taking too much time. “I feel 50 pounds lighter” without it, Mr. Andreessen said in an onstage interview at a tech event on Thursday, adding that he had archived all of his old tweets. On his behalf, a spokeswoman for his firm declined to comment.
Other prominent figures have taken Twitter hiatuses before or left altogether. Screenwriter Joss Whedon, known for the 2012 film “The Avengers,” cited the need to concentrate on work for closing his Twitter account. Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones grew tired of verbal abuse on Twitter. Both have since resumed tweeting.
But few have as intense a Twitter habit as Mr. Andreessen, a Silicon Valley luminary who co-founded Netscape Communications, creator of the trailblazing web browser of the 1990s.
Since he started using Twitter in earnest at 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day in 2014, Mr. Andreessen had tweeted roughly 100,000 times, which averages out to about 100 tweets per day. He clicked “like” on others’ tweets about 267,000 times and collected some 595,000 followers.
“I miss him,” said Jeff Richards, a venture capitalist at GGV Capital. “He’s one of the best follows on Twitter,” characterizing Mr. Andreessen as among the few tech-industry tweeters with an outsize personality who “didn’t care what people think.”
Mr. Andreessen’s move gained extra attention because of his decision to delete old tweets, which some saw as an attempt to scrub history the way a politician might to try to ward off opposition researchers. It also got added buzz because Twitter Inc., which has struggled with slowing user growth, is now the object of possible takeover interest by a range of companies.
Some people in Silicon Valley speculated that Mr. Andreessen, who is on the board of Twitter Inc. rival Facebook Inc., FB 0.14 % may have left the service because he is involved in a bid for Twitter. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.
“I’m willing to give odds [Marc Andreessen’s] Twitter break is because he’s trying to buy it,” tweeted Mitch Kapor, himself a personal-computing pioneer and tech investor.
Others found that theory profoundly lacking. Securities-law experts say Mr. Andreessen could simply refrain from comments about Twitter, rather than quit the service altogether. There is no legal reason he would have to delete all his old tweets if he was involved in a bid, said Adam Pritchard, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School.
Prof. Pritchard added that perhaps Mr. Andreessen simply needed a social-media cleansing to focus more on work and family. “Maybe his wife said, ‘You’ve got to put that damn thing down!’”
Gizmodo blogger Eve Peyser joked that perhaps she “killed @pmarca,” as Mr. Andreessen is known on Twitter, saying he blocked her account on Saturday soon after she poked fun at him and just hours before he deleted his tweets. “I was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she wrote.
Mr. Andreessen’s Twitter persona matches his real-life one. An articulate polymath, he confidently fires off thoughts with the cadence of a woodpecker. He popularized “tweetstorms”—essentially short essays broken up in the 140-character increments accommodated on Twitter. He often rebutted those who claimed a new tech bubble was inflating, blocked users who disagreed with him, and in recent months lobbed criticism at presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The flood of tweets functioned as a marketing tool for Andreessen Horowitz that helped the firm elbow its way to the top of the venture-capital industry. Its carefully cultivated image as a founder-friendly investor and premier brand has given it an inside edge on hot startup funding deals. Rival firms have needed a decade or more and many winning investments to earn their spot in that upper echelon.
Three weeks before Mr. Andreessen went quiet, The Wall Street Journal reported confidential data that showed Andreessen Horowitz’s investment performance over its seven-year history was solid, but so far has fallen short of that of elite firms.
Jekabs Endzins, the co-founder of Latvia-based TweetDeleter.com, said that the Twitter account belonging to Mr. Andreessen logged into his service and within 48 hours about 106,000 tweets had been deleted. Mr. Endzins said over 900,000 Twitter accounts have used his service since he launched it four years ago, crediting that growth to internet users’ increased focus on their privacy.
Tweeting has gotten Mr. Andreessen into trouble before. Last February, he went into self-imposed Twitter exile for a short time after ill-considered tweets criticizing Indian regulators for killing a plan by Facebook to provide limited internet service to the country’s poor. The tweet was widely cited as offensive and Mr. Andreessen apologized.
Write to Rolfe Winkler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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