Twitter's not going to make their money with advertising. So how can they be a Billion Dollar Company in a year? By listening to me. Twitter should take full advantage of their messaging platform, user base and user disposition to lead in the P2P mobile payments space. They can become the next PayPal, and are more poised to become that than PayPal itself.
Let's rewind for a second. Last year, I wrote an in depth analysis about mobile payments and concluded that, in order to move forward:
The best option is probably not doing a stand alone payment system. What I mean by that is that mobile payments need to be integrated into a larger online presence, especially if you have a site which is membership based.
With WAP and SMS having low penetration (again, sub-50%!), it will be the responsibility of those with an online presence already to move folks onto mobile platforms and mobile payment systems, as carriers and PayPal (VeriSign and Visa Mobile as well) can only do so much.
That was then. Now, Twitter has the growing social network, noteworthy penetration, and is building the core infrastructure to make this happen. Here's how:
Forget infrastructure, forget great partnerships: the most important place a mobile payments system can start with is ubiquity.
Twitter is far from being a ubiquitous mobile platform, but they have more penetration and usage than any other mobile service and their current user base is the same important group of technology early adopters that PayPal enjoyed when it convinced the world that you could send money to an email address.
One of the most missed facts in the mobile payments space is that users of a system have to be comfortable communicating using machine language. This is to say, one must remember and follow certain semantics so the system knows how much you're paying and to whom.
Twitter users are already trained in this important action. Every time a Twitterer uses the "@," "d" or even "#" to direct Twitter or annotate the messages it sends through the system, people are using the exact sort of machine language they'd need to use for mobile payments to work.
Having users already comfortable speaking in machine lanaguage is already a huge plus for Twitter. I already "d" you a direct message. Now I'd like to "p" you $5.
Forget, for a moment, that Twitter has had serious scaling problems and buy into, for a moment, to the fact that Twitter is currently rebuilding their entire infrastructure to function like a messaging system.
The significance of this is how Twitter will continue to wrap itself around (not to) the mobile carriers and further integrate with our mobile devices.
When the rearchitecting is all said and done, Twitter will be a carrier independent social messaging platform -- one that can harness both the power of the social web AND mobile messaging infrastructure, which will be a powerful one-two punch in the mobile P2P payment space.
If Twitter had a P2P payments system in place today, it would become the most used mobile payments system overnight. Having the ability to send a message like "p innonate $5" for that beer I just bought you would integrate seamlessly with the way Twitter's users already interact with their system.
Layering on a payments system would not only make the feature instantly used, it would position Twitter to revolutionize how money is collected and exchanged on the Internet (think of what Twitter's done for flashmobs and how it could effect fundraising).
Twitter, I hope you're listening.