Twitter, now is that time to build that payments system into your platform. Over a year ago, I wrote my most-read article ever, detailing how a payments system in Twitter would create a tremendous amount of value and revenue for the startup. While I heard from company insiders that the proposition was considered at a high level, their focus on premium features for businesses and getting more high profile users to actively use the service indicates that any payments system currently sits on the back burner.
In my mind here's why now is the time to bring payments to the front burner, and why soon may be too late:
People still use Twitter like the command-line.
Take advantage of this!! As I detailed in my post last year, Twitter has a leg-up in the mobile payments space specifically because it's users are already comfortable using odd syntax in their messaging. As I pointed out then, while most of us have a PayPal account none of us know the syntax to send mobile payments with it. Twitter users understand what an "@" and a "d" do within days of using the service. In this regard, Twitter is the MySpace (where my little siblings "learned" CSS and HTML) of the command-line; and mobile payments, because mobile is a multi-platform world, requires command-line-like interfaces.
This being said, mobile is converging. More and more applications are cross-platform and more and more people have phones which run applications. Twitter's leg-up in mobile could evaporate in the next few years. Don't think for a second that PayPal has given up on this space.
TipJoy shutting down delivers the two best people to implement the service to their doorstep.
(When I wrote the first draft of this post, news hadn't leaked that Ivan was hired by Facebook).
Abby, the co-founder of TipJoy, is now the best person in the world to hire if you want to take on P2P and mobile payments. Fresh out of her TipJoy experience, Twitter would be wise to either hire her or work closely with her while her experience is still fresh.
Twitter is the only one who can do it on Twitter.
Twitter prides itself on being a "platform." "Let developers add value," they cry. Not in this case. Forget owning P2P payments, if Twitter even wants payments to ever exist in a meaningful way on their platform, they can be the only ones who do it.
I explained this in my post last year and TipJoy confirmed in their postmortem, saying, "We believe that a payments system directly and officially integrated into social networks such as Twitter and Facebook will be a huge success." Abby, Ivan and I aren't the only ones who believe this, by the way. Facebook's hiring of Ivan says they're serious about payments being a part of their platform.
Social/mobile payments innovation will happen.
Many chalk mobile/social payments up to blabber from trend speculators like yours truly. After all, folks have been talking about it for a long time.
What's missed, however, is that while tools around the trading of money of money in mobile and social spheres has lagged, tools and services where virtual goods are traded have flourished -- because they've focused on getting the tools right.
Twitter can still get this right. But the time to focus on payments is now.