What does it take to move Twitter out of Facebook's shadow?
That's one of the existential questions facing a growing list of possible candidates for the top job at Twitter. The list, debated among industry insiders and analysts alike, includes those who work inside the struggling social network and outsiders who have run other tech companies or are maybe masterful enough to give Twitter a much-needed jolt. Analysts believe executive search firm Spencer Stuart will find Twitter's next CEO by Labor Day, or at most past Thanksgiving.
The chosen one will succeed interim CEO Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of the company who's also the chief of Square, a mobile-payments company he founded after leaving Twitter.
Twitter's next leader will walk in the doors of a struggling social media giant that needs to find its appeal beyond the hip, geeky and self-absorbed users who have come to typify the service. Though the number of people who log in to the service each month tops 302 million, Twitter is a fraction of the size of Facebook, which counted more than 1.4 billion users as of March.
The new CEO has to be a cultural fit at Twitter as well as a passionate and ferocious user of the product, said SunTrust analyst Robert Peck.
"Wall Street wants to see someone who has products in the pipeline and is fully committed to doing the job," he said.
But the new chief also has to keep investors happy, said JMP Securities analyst Ron Josey.
"The debate is whether Twitter is looking for a product-focused CEO or a revenue-focused CEO," he said. "Product or revenue? Those are the discussions going on with the board as we speak."
Twitter chairman and interim CEO
While he's less than two weeks into the role of running Twitter on an interim basis, it would seem logical that Dorsey -- who was the company's first CEO, from 2006 to 2008 (before he was ousted) -- would take the job again.
"Despite all that we have accomplished, Twitter still has huge unmet potential," Dorsey said when former CEO Dick Costolo exited in June. But the Twitter board has made it clear they want Twitter's next chief to be fully committed to the job, and Dorsey said he's not giving up his other project, Square. So, he's probably out.
CEO and co-founder of Flipboard
A former Twitter board member from 2010 to 2012, McCue currently runs Flipboard, the popular Silicon Valley-based newsreader with about 65 million users. Under McCue's lead, Flipboard is ripe for acquisition. Analysts say Flipboard has attracted not only the likes of Twitter, but also search-engine giants Yahoo and Google in a potential billion-dollar deal.
McCue served on the Twitter board with current board member Peter Currie, who is also on Twitter's CEO search committee. In addition, Currie has invested in Flipboard and was a board member on McCue's other venture, Tellme. The two go back to McCue's days working at Netscape as a college dropout. Currie was Netscape's chief financial officer.
Chairman of male enthusiast sports site Scout.com, former interim CEO of Yahoo and former president of Fox Interactive
Analysts believe the longtime Internet executive's strengths are his past ties to Yahoo, where he helped build content and product (but was eventually succeeded by Marissa Mayer as CEO). At Fox, Levinsohn worked well with advertisers on Madison Avenue and investors on Wall Street. He also mentored Twitter's head of global revenue, Adam Bain, while they worked together at Fox.
Analysts say Levinsohn has run a tech-enabled media property before and probably would like to have another shot.
Vice president of display advertising products at Google
Investors mentioned Mohan's name as Costolo's possible successor late last year, according to analyst reports.
The highly regarded, in-demand and yet reserved Mohan has overseen Google's display and video products. He's also well known for Google reportedly paying him $100 million in stock to stay at the search-engine goliath instead of bolting to Twitter in 2011.
Wall Street believes he could bring fresh perspective to Twitter's try-it-again attempts at making money from advertising in user's streams.
Chief product officer at Facebook
Perhaps an overlooked candidate, Cox has been a key cog for Facebook's success with mobile products. He oversees numerous products, including the company's upcoming expansion into virtual reality and a relatively new feature, Instant Articles, where publishers create interactive articles. For Twitter, his expertise could really make a difference. Mobile ads make up nearly three-fourths of Facebook's advertising revenue.
He's overseen some of the world's most-used products, analysts say, and Twitter could learn a thing or two from them.
Head of global revenue at Twitter
He's well-liked and perhaps the most serious internal candidate. He's been there for five years, currently overseeing monetization and some 1,700 staffers.
Bain was previously a chief technology officer at Fox Interactive Media, where he helped lead the company's acquisition of the once uber-popular MySpace. In 2012, Bain was listed at the top of "AdWeek's 50" ranking of indispensable industry talent.