By Hannah Connolly
Social media giant Twitter launched a new division at the end of 2021, which may revolutionise the way Twitter works for small businesses and creator users of the platform. With a female head leading the charge.
Twitter Crypto marks the latest move in all things blockchain in a bid to unlock new possibilities including user monetisation.
Taking up the helm of the new division as crypto engineering lead is Tess Rinearson who will build and lead the new team. “Tess will focus here, with a long-term goal of exploring how ideas from crypto can help us push the boundaries of what’s possible with identity, community and more,” said the company in a statement.
The new directive will build upon the Bluesky initiative launched in 2019 by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey before he left the firm in November 2021. Bluesky has a remit of exploring decentralised media.
“With appointments such as Tess the stereotype of the 'Silicon Valley bro' as the architect of the internet is being challenged,” said tech analyst Olivia Yallop. “Having better representation within those building the internet is key to ensuring it considers all experiences. Lack of diversity was identified as an important factor in incubating issues such as algorithmic discrimination during the last decade.”
"Blockchain technologies have often been portrayed as a male-dominated preserve. Tess’ appointment to such a key role in the world of social media starts to create a paradigm shift in the sector."
Blockchain is a digital commodity, favoured by former CEO Dawsey, that is now worth more than a trillion dollars globally and serves as the technology facilitating the existence of cryptocurrencies, namely Bitcoin, for which blockchain was invented to enable. It also acts as a system of recording information that is impossible to hack, cheat or change.
The more than 200 million monetisable active daily users of Twitter are now able to ‘tip’ their favourite content creators using bitcoin. Previously users could pay for content through more traditional means such as Cash App and Venmo. Twitter itself will take no money through this tips feature.
As today’s social media content creators rely on Twitter to monetise and earn livings, not all people are able or want to accept traditional currencies. “Twitter is turning its focus to support digital currencies to enable anyone on Twitter to get paid, no matter where they live,” explains the Twitter team.
“With appointments such as Tess the stereotype of the 'Silicon Valley bro' as the architect of the internet is being challenged.”
This will work in tandem with Twitter's mission of decentralising social media and disrupting centralised companies including Facebook and LinkedIn. In centralised media, advertisers serve as the customer and user data as the product. The Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp mass outage of 2021 was a result of a centralised operation.
In 2019 Twitter put out the following statement: “We recognise the promise of decentralisation across all social media platforms in areas like algorithmic choice, peer-to-peer monetisation for creators, and long-term platform hygiene. Central authority in social media platforms can lead to unintended consequences at times. Bluesky’s research will inform the path for social networks to leverage decentralisation to address these areas”.
Decentralising would provide individuals or groups using social media platforms more autonomy and control, without shareholder input that may not align with the platform's user base. Decentralised media is also a way of preventing hacking and data breaches as they are supported by blockchain technology.
“The appointment of Tess Rinearson is the perfect choice to head up Twitter's new crypto division,” said Helen Gleave, Tech Analyst at Digital Talent Agency Insanity. Adding: “Blockchain technologies have often been portrayed as a male dominated preserve. Tess’ appointment to such a key role in the world of social media starts to create a paradigm shift in the sector. "
The Twitter Crypto Division comes at a time of major change for the established social giant which was founded 16 years ago, with new CEO, former Chief of Technology, Parag Agrawal taking the helm last month.
“Twitter is turning its focus to support digital currencies to enable anyone on Twitter to get paid, no matter where they live”
Agrawal has made few public comments since his appointment but did retweet enthusiastic posts regarding the appointment of Rinearson.
Twitter isn't alone in doubling down on blockchain-based technology. IBM is currently the biggest global company embracing the tech, investing more than $200m (£147m) in blockchain research and development. Meanwhile, at Reddit, co-founder Alexis Ohanian is teaming up his venture capital fund Seven Seven Six with the Solana Foundation to invest $100m (£74m) in decentralised social media.
The driving force behind the announcement comes from the platform’s awareness of the new possibilities that blockchain and crypto may hold the key to. Beyond cryptocurrencies, Twitter is exploring the integration of blockchain tech to support creators on their platforms. "Since many still require technical expertise, we see an opportunity to help creators participate in the promise of an evolving decentralised internet directly on Twitter," says Twitter.
The social media giant joins the crypto investment rush hiring new engineering lead Tess Rinearson
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