This article is from Big Technology, a newsletter by Alex Kantrowitz.
Just like that, Manu Cornet’s time at Twitter was over. The prolific cartoonist and software engineer watched his services disconnect and laptop go blank in a meeting on Nov. 1. Less than a half-hour later, he learned he was out, an early cut among the 3,700+ Twitter employees who lost their jobs this month.
Cornet’s time at Twitter was brief but well illustrated. With dozens of cartoons, Cornet depicted the feeling inside as Musk acquired the company. As the person behind some of the tech world’s best-known cartoons—including an all-timer on Big Tech org charts—Cornet was perfectly placed to document the wild 2022 Twitter experience.
Now suing Twitter, Cornet isn’t speaking publicly, but he did give me permission to reprint his Twitter cartoons (which he calls “twittoons”), which he continues to post on the platform. Here are 11 illustrations that illuminate Twitter’s recent past as no other medium can.
July 6, 2021: Welcome to Twitter
Cornet began his Twitter career poking fun at the company’s inefficiency. He saw some of its processes—in this case, disorganized password management—and was not impressed. For years, Twitter was a slow-moving, red-tape-filled company that struggled to ship products. Cornet was learning why.
August 30, 2021: Twitter’s Central Tension
Musk hadn’t yet entered the picture, but Cornet identified Twitter’s impossible balancing act early on. The service is filled with bots and abuse, but the market wants the associated engagement. So it’s stuck in the middle.
November 30, 2021: Dorsey’s Out
CEO Jack Dorsey resigned from Twitter on Nov. 29, 2021. The next day, Cornet poked at his dual loyalty to Twitter and Square, the other company he was running at the same time. The “uh-oh” is telling, because the question the ellipses led to was: What comes next? Cornet and his colleagues would soon find out.
February 16, 2022: A Loss of Direction
After Parag Agrawal took over as CEO, Cornet pointed to a lack of vision. His cartoon from this era indicates Twitter’s priorities were vague, yet still accompanied by an urgency to demonstrate progress.
April 7, 2022: Elon Enters the Picture
On April 4, 2022, Musk announced he’s become Twitter’s largest shareholder after acquiring 9 percent of the company. On April 5, he was offered a board seat. On April 7, Cornet previewed the impending culture clash between Musk and the company’s employees.
April 14, 2022: Tune Out the Noise
Musk made an offer to buy Twitter in April 2022. Meanwhile, management urged Twitter employees to tune out the noise and focus on the work. This cartoon, which Cornet drew a few days later, perfectly depicts the absurdity of that request.
July 11, 2022: Musk Attempts to Bail
After signing a deal to buy Twitter, Musk declared he no longer wanted to go through with it. Cornet imagined him being forced to complete the transaction in this cartoon. He later handed Musk a signed copy with a note, “I hope you don’t mind a ‘court jester’ at Twitter or you’ll have to get me fired.” Musk eventually took him up on the offer.
August 25, 2022: A Roller Coaster
Twitter sued to force the Musk deal to close. As the court case played out, life inside Twitter got dizzying. Like the rest of us, employees had little idea when it would end.
October 6, 2022: Deal Complete
Musk agreed to go through with the deal in October and hurtled toward Twitter at rapid speed. Employees had a good idea about what was coming.
October 26, 2022: Parag MIA
Twitter employees heard frustratingly little from their CEO around this time. There was a sense he was hunkering down and waiting to collect his massive severance package.
November 11, 2022: Down the Drain
Musk acquired Twitter in late October and walked into Twitter HQ with a sink. Soon after, he’d send Cornet and more than 3,700 of his colleagues down the figurative drain. As Cornet imagined it, it’s not all bad.
Musk is now in control of Twitter and rapidly shipping products, features, and new policies. This is nothing like the bureaucratic company Cornet walked into last year. Musk may still do a good job with the company (as I argued last week). But this whole time, there’s been a human Twitter story, too. If it wasn’t so frustrating, you might even call the whole thing cartoonish.