The past four months have been full of transformational moments for crypto. From El Salvador’s adoption of bitcoin as legal tender to the political firepower that manifested during the U.S. Congress’s infrastructure bill debate, it feels like the ideas and predictions that I’ve been covering for nearly a decade are starting to become reality.
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I think Thursday’s announcement of new crypto features on Twitter is of a similar significance. First up is a tipping feature that will connect profiles to Bitcoin and Lightning Network addresses (as well as other payments services). The service isn’t available on Android yet, so I haven’t been able to use it. But early glimpses show a streamlined and intuitive experience that looks set to smoothly onboard new bitcoin users. Twitter also says it will implement non-fungible token (NFT) verification on the platform soon, though no firm timeline was announced.
This will be the largest integration yet of crypto with an existing, mainstream digital service (aside from crypto features in financial apps like RobinHood and PayPal). And the fact that it’s Twitter making the first move could hardly be more bullish.
It’s true that Twitter, with about 360 million monthly active users, is far from the largest social network in the world – it’s smaller than even Pinterest, with about 450 million MAU, and can’t hold a candle to Facebook, which is approaching 3 billion MAU. But more important than raw size is that Twitter (though this is subjective) is the social network of choice for influential figures across a variety of fields, and the place where a lot of those leaders talk most impactfully amongst themselves. Further, they’re surrounded by a huge resource in the form of Crypto Twitter, which by happy coincidence has lately (at least from where I’m standing) become notably less toxic and more supportive.
That said, I’m actually not certain the Bitcoin integration is the biggest part of the Twitter news. The friendly-looking Lightning interface is exciting, but Twitter has never prevented posting public crypto addresses to profiles, so in some sense it’s more an upgrade than an entirely new option.
NFT verification, however, will be a step change. The feature is still in development but it will provide some way of confirming and visually conveying that an NFT displayed in a Twitter profile is authentic, and that it is owned by the same person as the Twitter profile. As we’ve discussed in these pages at length, NFTs are a novel and powerful way to flex and show community affiliations online, but this integration will make those claims vastly clearer and more powerful.
Finally, it’s very good news these features, which use truly public blockchain infrastructure, will make it to market before Facebook’s weird, still-floundering attempt to create a knockoff pseudo-crypto called diem. Diem has always, in part, been a gambit to leverage Facebook’s size to ensnare users and advertisers in a payment system over which Facebook would have substantial influence. Twitter’s embrace of a system it doesn’t control demonstrates that a better future is possible.
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