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Twitter Names Costolo CEO; Williams Will Focus On ‘Product Strategy’

Twitter COO Dick Costolo will take over as CEO, the company just announced, as current CEO Evan Williams steps aside in order to be “completely focused on product strategy.” The news is a surprise; in an interview just last week with my colleague Staci D. Kramer, Costolo gave no hints that he was about to take on a bigger job at the company and in fact said that instead of a “five-year-plan” Twitter had “(Ev Williams) thinking about the ways people use the platform and where [they] need to go.”

But in a blog post, Williams says that in the wake of Twitter’s recent website relaunch he had realized that “[he is] most satisfied while pushing product direction” and therefore had asked Costolo to take the CEO job. It’s worth noting, however, that Gawker reported earlier this summer that it was possible that Williams would step down from his position, as Costolo increasingly took over some of his responsibilities.

Costolo, a long-time friend of Williams and co-founder Biz Stone, joined Twitter as COO just over a year ago. At Twitter, he has led the company’s still fledgling but accelerating efforts to make money, including the launch of its ad platform earlier this year. Just today, Twitter said it was testing a system that would let users pay to have their accounts promoted on the pages of other users.

Here’s his complete statement about today’s development:

I love working with Evan Williams. During his tenure as CEO, Twitter has gone from 20 employees to 300, from three million registered users to more than 165 million, and from 1.25 million Tweets per day to 90 million today, and he’s done all this while keeping Twitter’s unique culture intact. I completely respect his decision to focus on product strategy and vision. As we’ve all see with the new Twitter, when Ev focuses on product, something amazing can happen. I’m certainly excited to be taking on this role. You couldn’t ask to take a job like this at a better time – the team is incredible, we have awesome stuff in the pipeline, and we’re ready to accomplish more in the next two years than we’ve accomplished in the last four.

Most of the speculation in the wake of the announcement is that Costolo will now be able to position the company for an IPO or possible sale, although Williams and Costolo are not talking about that notion in interviews with the press. In an interview with TechCrunch, for instance, the two men say the shift was triggered by the recent website relaunch and say repeatedly that it is designed to let Williams focus on “product.” They tell MediaMemo the same.

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