How Twitter Ought To Be Monetizing Itself

If you’re at all a technophile. you’ve undoubtedly read how Twitter is slowly shutting down 3rd party apps, contemplating inserting ads into the Twitter stream, and generally flailing about in a poorly thought out effort to earn money. Twitter, whose popularity soared due to the openness of the platform, has been eschewing their earliest adopters and cheerleaders who, chafing under Twitter’s new rules, appear to be heading to a competing service called, which charges consumers $50/year for the service and intends to keep itself open for the use of 3rd party apps.

Now, I’m not claiming to be the smartest man in the room, but it seems to me that both parties are missing the boat. Yes, I get charging consumers for a service that they use, and that when the user is paying for the service, they can demand a certain modicum of privacy. But privacy is kind of BS on Twitter. Nearly everything happens in the open anyway, except for direct messages and hidden feeds (the point of hidden feeds being completely lost on me), and nobody seems to think that Twitter plans to sell these to anybody for anything anyhow.

And as for Twitter’s plans, well they seem even more silly. Maybe some mathematical genius has a means of mining people’s snarky comments for information on the perfect ad to serve up to that person and the exact right time. But it seems more likely to me that they’ll just creep people out in an uncanny valley sense, rather than successfully serve up ads people will click on.

No, the value in Twitter is in the fact that people are connected on the thing, and it can serve as a universal login for other services. So if I were running Twitter and looking for revenue, that is where I would look.

For example, let’s say I could send the following tweet:

@friend $5 Hey buddy, here’s the money I owe you

And have the money move directly from my account to my friend’s account via Paypal or Dwolla. Is that worth something? What would Paypal or Dwolla or someone else even pay to own the dollar sign command on Twitter?

Or how about this?

@friend Hey buddy, lending you Game of thrones on kindle. K

Or maybe this:

@friend Hey Buddy, here’s that movie you wanted to borrow from me. I

So why does this work? Because for iTunes or Amazon to offer services like this, they need to build a social network of their own. Apple tried that with ping and it didn’t work out. Part of why these things never work out is that people don’t trust retailers, and so they give them email addresses that they use for retailers alone. Thus when you let Game Center rape your address book looking for your friends, it finds virtually no-one, because nobody gave their personal email address to iTunes.

But if you connect your Twitter account to Dwolla, Amazon, iTunes, Dropbox and who knows what else, you enable all the benefits of social networking without having to recreate the wheel each time, and without having to share more than you really need to with the retailer, or even the person you’re trying to share with.

Twitter could charge companies for access like this either by transaction or just a flat rate per year. And they could auction off single or maybe double letter combinations for use as commands, such a $ for sending money. And in that world there’s no reason to limit how third parties access and display Twitter for people. In fact, the more varieties there are, the better.

There’s probably zero chance of Twitter changing course at this stage. But I always thought that was the real potential for Twitter, a single interface for connecting and sharing. That’s where the economic potential lies. The tweeting itself is just a fun sideline.

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