Hatching Twitter

Nick Bilton, Portfolio,

304 pages, $28.95

The ability to share anything to a potentially limitless audience has made Twitter one of the world's most important companies. Yet Twitter's success is only the latest chapter of Silicon Valley's most radical, least understood story: The accumulation of public expression by private companies.

New York Times tech columnist Nick Bilton's new book, "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal," offers an inside account of the Silicon Valley screw-ups who stumbled, bickered and betrayed their way into creating a media empire.

Though much of "Hatching Twitter" is hobbled by weak anecdotes and schlocky metaphors, the book is carried by Bilton's excruciating account of the initial CEO Jack Dorsey's evolution.

First, Dorsey is a willowy eccentric with an inappropriate romantic fixation on a co-worker. Next, he's demoted to powerless figurehead. Ultimately, Dorsey successfully stages a boardroom coup against co-founder and former friend Evan Williams.

"I invented Twitter," Dorsey protests to Williams in one of the book's most compelling passages.

"No, you didn't invent Twitter," Williams replied. "People don't invent things on the Internet. They simply expand on an idea that already exists."

All the Dorsey drama is irresistible, but this exchange contains the book's most important message: Twitter is an authorless text.