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Twitter’s beginning is a story of boozing and backstabbing

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Chairman and co-founder Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams and Biz Stone (left to right) applaud as they watch the the New York Stock Exchange opening bell ring November 7, 2013. The "forgotten founder" Noah Glass wasn't there. (Richard Drew/AP photo)

Three years ago a movie about Facebook gave us a fictional account that showed the two founders of the social network had major disagreements causing one to push the other out.

“You signed the papers,” says Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg

“You set me up,” replies an angry Eduardo Saverin, portrayed by actor Andrew Garfield

“You’re gonna blame me because you were the business head of the company and you made a bad business deal with your own company,” Zuckerberg says.

“It’s gonna be like I’m not a part of Facebook,” says Saverin.

“It won’t be like you’re not a part of Facebook,” interjects Sean Parker. “You’re not a part of not Facebook.”

“My name’s on the masthead,” Saverin says.

“You might want to check again,” Parker says, in a character played by Justin Timberlake.

The beginning of another social network – Twitter – had an ugly start and will likely be turned into a movie, too.

New York Times Columnist Nick Bilton says it’s a story of backstabbing and betrayal.

“It’s in many cases, worse than Facebook,” says Bilton. “It’s about four guys who came together to build a technology and in the process ended up tearing their friendships apart.”

What’s different with Twitter versus Facebook is that Facebook had one primary founder, while with Twitter there were four.

Two people are generally credited with starting Twitter, two others were thrown overboard right away.

“That was one of the really fascinating aspects of the story for me,” says Bilton. “The four guys came from very distinct backgrounds. Some of them along the way ended up billionaires and celebrities, some of them ended up with nothing.”

Jack Dorsey came from a blue-collar family in a small area outside of St. Louis, Missouri. He moved to San Francisco in search of the “modern day gold rush dream to become a rich entrepreneur,” says Bilton. Dorsey overcame a severe speech impediment that “left an indelible dent in his communication skills.”

Evan Williams is from Clarks, Nebraska. That’s a tiny town of about 300 people. He was a shy farm boy who spent his summers helping on the farm with crop irrigation. He attended the University of Nebraska for a year and a half, eventually leaving to pursue a tech career. His parents never understood their computer-obsessed son.

Christopher Stone, who goes by the first name Biz, was raised on food stamps. His mother inherited her parents’ house near Boston and her strategy for raising her children was to sell and downgrade to a smaller place in the area every four years so her children could “take advantage of the county’s fancy schools,” and she “could use the money from the house sale to pay the bills.” Bilton says Stone was the “comedian of the group.”

Noah Glass is the forgotten founder who was “pushed out early on” but was one of the most important people in the creation of the product. Glass grew up first on a commune and then with his grandparents. When a horse kicked Noah’s brother in the knee, a relative, “a tough mountain man who took on the role of father figure,” beat the horse to death with a pipe. “That’s how you stand up for yourself,” the man told him.

The four met by “happy accident” in San Francisco.

Though a sympathetic figure in the book’s early pages, Dorsey emerges in “Hatching Twitter” as the most bizarre and unlikable of the founders. He was by far the most ambitious.

Dorsey intentionally transformed himself into a facsimile of Steve Jobs, Bilton says, adopting a daily uniform, wearing the same round glasses for a time, copying weekly schedules and even to the point of liking the Beatles, just as Jobs did.

The four friends spent a great deal of their time deciding who should run and who should be run out of the company, according to Bilton. While one was completely deleted from Twitter’s history, the others don’t have much to do with running the company today.

“You have these people that are somewhat socially awkward in many respects and they find solace in their computers,” Bilton says, of why tech start-up founders have a tough time staying together.

“When they are thrust into the limelight and given this power, control and money, they don’t know how to handle it very well.”

By LINDA THOMAS, aka @TheNewsChick on Twitter

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