Twitter co-founder Ev Williams says in retrospect that showing how many followers you have wasn’t ‘healthy’

Ev Williams

“It really put in your face that the game was popularity,” he said.

Twitter today has a health problem. And one of its first CEOs has a few ideas about some early decisions that caused it.

Ev Williams, a Twitter co-founder and board member, said that, in retrospect, it wasn’t a great idea for Twitter to show follower counts on user’s profiles. The same goes for the Suggested User List, a project that Williams was highly critical of when he was CEO.

“I think showing follower counts was probably ultimately detrimental,” Williams said at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. “It really put in your face that the game was popularity.”

Williams’s comments are revealing since they come at a time when the current CEO, Jack Dorsey, is trying to measure the “health” of his platform. Dorsey himself has said that follower counts can give users a negative incentive, though he has yet to float removing those from the site entirely.

But follower counts were a huge reason why Twitter succeeded in the early days, Williams acknowledged. He recalled his appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2009 when there was a highly publicized race between CNN and Ashton Kutcher to have the first Twitter account with a million followers.

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