In the latest episode of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, Elon Musk’s Twitter is reportedly working on becoming a payments platform.
According to the Financial Times(Opens in a new window), which cites people familiar with the company’s plans, Musk wants Twitter’s users to be able to buy stuff on Twitter, but also to send money to each other. Despite Musk’s self-professed love of cryptocurrency, the system will primarily be based on fiat payments, though crypto functionality could be added at a later stage.
Twitter is already working on a system that allows users to award other creators. But these new features will require the company to satisfy a ton of regulatory checks, and the FT says Twitter is already registered with the U.S. Treasury as a payments processor. The company has also begun applying for necessary regulatory licenses in the U.S.
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This will take time; according to the report, Twitter hopes to complete the U.S. licensing within a year, after which the company would likely try to get the needed regulatory approvals to expand internationally.
At the helm of this new effort is Esther Crawford, Twitter’s director of Product Management, who appears to have adapted well to Elon Musk’s “extremely hardcore” work environment. Crawford, who is described by the FT as Musk’s “fast-rising lieutenant,” shared a photo of herself in a sleeping bag(Opens in a new window) on an office floor shortly after Musk’s takeover of Twitter. Crawford has been appointed the head of Twitter Payments and is leading a small team which is currently working on creating a vault for storing and protecting the user data collected by the system.
This will be a very important part of Twitter Payments, given the numerous cybersecurity and data leak incidents that have plagued Twitter in recent years. As the FT points out, with Musk having fired more than half of the company’s employees since he took over, Twitter’s compliance staff might not be sufficient to handle a project of this magnitude. There’s also the issue of having to force users to give away their real identity and more personal data as they sign up for the platform, which some may be reluctant to do.
The payments project is part of Musk’s effort to significantly increase Twitter’s revenue, which he laid out in a leaked pitch deck in May 2022. The company lost some advertising revenue since Musk took over in October 2022, so fulfilling his ambitious plans certainly won’t be easy. In the payments space, Twitter will have to fight against heavyweight competitors such as PayPal and Apple Pay. Musk, however, isn’t without experience in the field; one of his first projects was the online bank X.com(Opens in a new window), which later became a part of PayPal.
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