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If Jack Dorsey Is Twitter’s Future, Is Evan Williams Its Past?

The Wall Street Journal writes about Jack Dorsey’s return to the company he co-founded, his plans for the future, and what this means for users and developers.

More importantly, what does this mean for Evan Williams, and his future at Twitter?

Dorsey, who was spoke at Columbia University’s Journalism School earlier today, says that Twitter’s main priority was making the service more mainstream.

“We have a lot of mainstream awareness, but mainstream relevancy is still a challenge,” said Dorsey. “The best part about Twitter is that it allows you to do things like following what’s happening in Egypt right now. That’s the value, not the brand ‘Twitter.’ So we need to refocus on that value. That’s my goal in the next few months.”

Dorsey also provided a little insight into Twitter’s recent change of policy towards developers.

“It’s up to any good platform company to really guide its developers in the right way, to inspire them to create interesting and useful applications. The interesting products out on the internet aren’t building significantly new technologies. They’re combining technologies,” he said.

Dorsey remains committed to his other start-up Square (“I live across street from Square, and Square is two blocks from Twitter. I live and breathe these companies.”) and that Square had taught him how to build products that are “approachable to customers”, which he now wants to apply to Twitter.

Dorsey’s return to Twitter is interesting for a number of reasons, but there’s a deeper story here that I think will develop in the weeks to come – and that’s the future of Evan Williams at Twitter.

Dorsey and fellow co-founder Biz Stone are both set to appear on Piers Morgan’s show on CNN tonight (9pm ET), but Williams is noticeable in his absence. Dorsey’s relationship with Williams has always been frosty, and after the latter grabbed the CEO position at Twitter in 2008, Dorsey stated that “it was like being punched in the stomach.”

Since then, Williams has also been usurped as CEO of Twitter by Dick Costolo, and rumours keep circulating that he’s increasingly disgruntled with his position at the company. It’s been confirmed that in light of Dorsey’s return, Williams will step back from his day-to-day duties, but stays on the board and operate predominately as an advisor to the company on strategy.

“He continues to have a close relationship with the company providing strategic advice and, of course, he remains an active board member,” wrote Twitter spokesman Matt Graves in an email yesterday.

But… there are rumblings that Williams is working on another start-up with a different team of employees. And if their working relationship is still questionable, Dorsey’s triumphant return to Twitter – and it’s far more of his baby, and his concept, than it ever was Evans’ – must leave Williams feeling a little bit like the little boy lost. Especially alongside Biz Stone’s new role as Strategic Impact Adviser at The Huffington Post, Dorsey’s success with Square and Costolo’s authority at Twitter.

When you add that all up, why wouldn’t he be looking somewhere else? He must be – it seems like a total no-brainer. The real question is whether he’ll do that thing alongside Twitter, or severe all ties. And I have to say that my gut feeling is that, right now at least, and taking everything into account, the latter is the safer medium-term bet.

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