Elon Musk, crypto and Twitter are three unlikely bedfellows but nonetheless are highly intertwined. Perhaps no subculture has embraced Twitter’s public square as fiercely as crypto-folk, and the microblogging service has also become a primary conduit for Musk to interact with his crypto — mainly Dogecoin — audience.
Given this Venn diagram, what could Twitter look like if it ends up going “full crypto” under Musk’s ownership?
Authenticating all “real humans”
Twitter has a serious spam bot problem, often combining with crypto to become a scam bot problem.
If you want to test this out yourself, just try tweeting “MetaMask” sometime. You’ll be instantly swarmed by bots trying to scam you into sending them your crypto coins. Hence, Musk’s stated aim to authenticate “all real humans”.
Twitter’s blue check-mark program seems like a feeble defense against a tidal wave of nefarious bots. Luckily, crypto itself has been trying to solve the problem of distinguishing bot from human for some time, using so-called “proof of personhood” protocols.
A plethora of projects have been deployed to solve this problem, from Idena, which pays people to solve tests to prove they’re human to blockchain-based crypto courts that can rule on whether an entity is human or not. It’s uncles what method Musk might pursue, but there are certainly lots out there.
Musk has already hinted at the possibility of using Dogecoin for payments on Twitter. Meanwhile, the Dogecoin price has been surging on speculation that even more integrations could come.
Musk, of course, is known as the Dogefather for his regular pronouncements about the memecoin. He’s also been known to confer with the Dogecoin core developers, and there’s some uncertainty over whether he has a representative on the Dogecoin Foundation’s board (the foundation says yes, Musk says no).
One of the rumors circulating in the Doge community, according to CoinDesk, is the notion that Twitter would accept Doge for payment for ads on Twitter. Advertising is how Twitter makes most of its money. It booked $4.5 billion in ad revenue last year. If all that cash had to purchase Dogecoin first, it would conceivably send that token’s price “to the moon.”
Twitter Crypto comes to the fore
The tribe of crypto enthusiasts chattering on Twitter at all hours is known as Crypto Twitter. But the company has an actual unit called Twitter Crypto. This unit’s job is to look at Crypto Twitter and think of ways to make their Twitter experience better. It’s the unit that came up with NFT authentication in profile pics, and tipping in cryptocurrencies.
Twitter Crypto doesn’t talk a whole lot about what it’s working on until it’s ready to announce something. But a recent interview in Wired supplies a few hints from the unit’s chief, Tess Rinearson: “We have to find the right ways to open up some access to a decentralized economic layer, or give people ways that they can take their identity with them, without relying on a single centralized service.”
Without speculating too much, it seems that more integration with crypto payments is in the cards, plus some work on the aforementioned “proof of personhood” protocols that could enable Twitter users to take their profiles or data with them.
At the end of the interview, Rinearson and her colleague Kate Crawford also allude to “Twittercoin.” Not much is said about it except that the team is loosely exploring the idea and that no roadmaps have been drawn up yet.
“We have this new economic technology that we think could unlock a lot of things for people,” Rinearson said. “And we want to go down a bunch of rabbit holes and see what we come up with.”
Twitter Crypto isn’t the only Twitter-affiliated entity that’s already looking into making one of Musk’s stated aims for the platform a reality. An entity called Bluesky is looking into open-sourcing the company’s algorithms.
It’s technically two organizations, both funded by Twitter. One works on the tech, while the other looks after a community of people who are interested in the notion of open-sourced social media.
Twitter first announced the idea of Bluesky three years ago, and the project hasn’t produced much public-facing material besides an “ecosystem overview” of existing decentralized social-media projects, which it published last year.
But Bluesky’s goal is to develop a “self-authenticating protocol” that moves power over data from the platform to the user. In theory, this means users should be able to take their data or identities with them, and the platform as a whole should be more trustworthy.
All of this means that Musk’s aim of having open-source Twitter algorithms may not be as outlandish or difficult as some assume. Bluesky has already been at it for a couple of years, and just announced its founding team, comprised of pioneers of existing open-source communications protocols.
What else Musk may have in store for Twitter is anyone’s guess, but Crypto Twitter will definitely be watching.