Twitter has big plans for cryptocurrencies

Twitter has big plans for cryptocurrencies

You may have heard of the so-called "crypto Twitter": the subsection of the social network in which the accounts have Bored apes (a popular collection of NFTs that depict cartoon-style monkeys) as their profile photos, the posts only talk about tokens , blockchain and bitcoin purchases, and Elon Musk is revered.

Tess Rinearson

Christian Peacock But you may also have heard of Twitter Crypto, the company's business unit dedicated to strategy development for cryptocurrencies, blockchain and that assortment of decentralized technologies that fall within the field of the Web3. The Twitter Crypto team was unveiled in November 2021 with a tweet posted by the newly hired project manager, Tess Rinearson, a US IT scientist living in Berlin who has previously worked for blockchain companies such as Tendermint and Interchain. >
Rinearson started working for Twitter at a pivotal time. Jack Dorsey, the company's chief executive and a staunch bitcoin supporter, would leave the company a few weeks later, to be replaced by then-tech chief Parag Agrawal. Agrawal was instrumental in Bluesky, a Twitter-funded project aimed at creating a protocol - possibly with blockchain components - for the development of decentralized social networks.

Esther Crawford

Twitter With the huge growth in popularity of cryptocurrencies globally and the explosion of crypto Twitter, the company has sought to dominate the industry. Under the direction of product manager Esther Crawford, Twitter introduced a tipping feature in September 2021, which allows content creators on the platform to receive bitcoin contributions through Lightning, a quick bitcoin payment network. Furthermore, starting from January of this year, Twitter allows subscribers to its paid service, Twitter Blue, to show off their nft as hexagonal profile images, thanks to a collaboration with the nft marketplace OpenSea.

Twitter Crypto is now moving the first passes i. Although Rinearson works with employees across the company, his team still has fewer than ten people, even though new hires are on the way judging by recent job announcements. It is therefore worth asking what will happen in the near future. I had the opportunity to ask Rinearson and Crawford where Twitter Crypto is headed during a video call.

The conversation has been edited, condensed and translated.

WIRED: Let's start with the basics. Why does Twitter have a dedicated cryptocurrency division?

Tess Rinearson: We see cryptocurrencies - and what we now call Web3 - as something capable of becoming a tool with incredible potential, which could give a lot to our users. The world of cryptocurrencies is a kind of internet of money, an internet of value, which our users can exploit to create new ways to dispose of their content, monetize it, control their identity and even relate to each other.

One of my goals is to develop this division in such a way that it also caters to communities beyond that of cryptocurrencies. Of course I also love crypto Twitter, I'm a very proud member of the community. At the same time, however, I realize that people who are deeply involved in this environment may not understand some ideas, such as the concept of immutability of the blockchain, in the same way as a person who is less intensely involved.

Elon Musk is already weighing his role as Twitter's largest shareholder.From conservative user requests to rehabilitate Donald Trump's profile to the ability to include a tweet editing feature, Musk seems interested in taking an active role in managing the social networks We try to think a lot about what we can learn from this very involved and creative group of people. But also how we can translate some of these things into a format, mechanism or product that is a little more accessible even for people who don't have that background.

How are you learning from crypto Twitter ? Do you just follow many accounts or do you really communicate with users?

Esther Crawford: A combination of both. We have an amazing research team that organizes interviews and surveys. But we are also part of the community: we follow a lot of accounts, we hang out on Twitter, we go to conferences and events; we get in touch with customers in this way. This is the way the search part works. But we also see it as end users: Twitter today is the platform for discovering everything related to cryptocurrencies.

One of the things that makes Twitter different is that we build openly. This means having a real-time dialogue with customers: for example, designers can announce something that is in a very preliminary phase of development with a tweet, obtaining feedback in real time. They participate in the spaces with product managers and engineering managers, talk about it live with customers and then integrate that feedback into the projects and products we end up launching.

Rinearson: One of the things I wanted to be sure about first of agreeing to work for Twitter was that we would be able to develop features in an open way, soliciting feedback and disseminating project drafts. I asked Parag Agrawal, who is now the CEO and was the person who hired me. At the beginning of the interview phase I explained to him that it would be very important to me, and he said to me: "Yes, you think it is important for the success of this job, well, go ahead and do it." He also shares this openness.

As you said, Tess, you come from the world of cryptocurrencies. When you were in the industry, what did Twitter do right from your point of view? And what was wrong?

Rinearson: I was already an advanced Twitter user for a long time at the time. I noticed that there was a great aesthetic alignment between the way Twitter and cryptocurrencies took their place in the world. Twitter has decentralized user experience in its DNA. While it may sound a little presumptuous, people sometimes use Twitter in the same way they use a public blockchain, like a public database where everything has a timestamp and you can agree on what happened.

For most people Twitter is an open platform, it exists for public debate. Then, of course, it was also the place - a place - where the cryptocurrency community really found its place. I think it's a place where you discover a huge amount of things, where the whole community gets educated and learned. I signed up when there were rumors that Twitter would start doing things related to cryptocurrencies, mostly projects that Esther had directed, and was excited to see where it would go. And then Twitter's investment in Bluesky gave me a lot of confidence.

WIRED: Let's talk about the two main things you have accomplished so far, the cryptocurrency tip feature and the nft images. Can you tell me briefly how they were born and why?

Crawford: They were our first experiments, and the reason we started from there is that we wanted to make sure what we built would benefit the content creators, their audience, and all the conversations we built. happen on Twitter. In the case of creators, in particular, we know that they rely on platforms like Twitter to monetize and earn a living, and not all people are able to use traditional currencies. Not everyone has a traditional bank account.

Twitter is already working on the “edit tweet” function One of the most requested and awaited changes could soon arrive, also thanks to the push of Elon Musk. Here's how it will work We wanted to give the opportunity to have a borderless payment method, which is why we decided to use Bitcoin Lightning as our first major integration. Another reason we chose it is the low fees. Bitcoin and ethereum addresses can also be entered. We noticed that users were adding information about their cryptocurrency wallet addresses to their profiles. So we decided to make the experience smoother, to allow people to tip easily through the platform, so that it was organic.

When it comes to nft profile pictures, too, we have observed user behavior. People had started adding their NFTs as avatars, but there was no way of knowing whether or not they owned them. So we decided to develop the function so that there was a tool to actually prove ownership.

Twitter content This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

Am I wrong or is it a similar method to how other things were developed on Twitter as well? Hashtags, or retweets, were originally invented by users by adding the # sign, or pasting other users' tweets, and then Twitter turned them into a function.

Crawford: Yes, exactly. Many of the best ideas come from observing user behavior on the platform, and then we produce them.

How all of these things - the two we mentioned and maybe the other cryptocurrency related functions that will come in future - help Twitter's financial results?

Crawford: With creator monetization, our goal was to help content creators earn money, not Twitter. But the platform retains a small portion of the earnings. In the case of the most successful content creators, we take a higher percentage. As we see it, it's part of diversifying our revenue.

Twitter today is a company that relies entirely on advertising. In the future, we imagine it can make money from a number of different product areas. Twitter Blue is one of these products: you can pay $ 2.99 per month and get additional features, such as nft profile images [Twitter Blue is not currently available in Italy, ed]. We really think that revenue diversification can be achieved in a number of different areas, and content creator monetization is a small part of it.

As you explained, these were just the first experiments. Where is Twitter Crypto Going Now? What's your take on the role of cryptocurrency technology within Twitter?

Rinearson: The real trick in this case is to understand which parts of Twitter to decentralize, without trying to decentralize everything at once, or without, for example, making sure that every user has to deal out of the blue. of private keys or such.

WiredLeaks, how to send us an anonymous report We have to find the right ways to give access to a decentralized economic level, or to provide people with methods to carry their identity with them, without having to rely on a single centralized service.

We are really at the beginning of these evaluations and, also thinking about tips in bitcoin or nft profile images, we consider these functions as experiments and opportunities to learn. We are learning new things about the ways our users relate to these ideas, what they understand, what they find unclear and what is most useful to them. We really want to try to use this technology to give people something useful; we don't just want to put some blockchain here and there for the fun of it. Monetizing content creators is an area that I'm really excited about because I think there really is a future path set out. But again, we want to look further: we are also trying to apply cryptocurrency technology in fields such as identity and ownership, and to understand what is the best way to serve the cryptocurrency communities on the platform. .

So are you going to put the blue ticks of verified Twitter users on a blockchain?

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