Cryptocurrencies offer a wide range of solutions to current financial problems. However, these fixes are still often more theoretical than practical. One area where a strong push for real-world use is being made is on Twitter.
Strike and Twitter launched bitcoin tipping in 2021. This lit up the bitcoin Twittersphere. The community jumped at the opportunity to support each other’s work using the BTC around which their connections are built.
The initial rollout only extends to the United States and El Salvador. However, Strike CEO Jack Mallers says the goal is to expand to the United Kingdom and Europe by the end of this year.
This is an impressive step towards viable BTC payments in everyday life. However, the lack of global rollout and the isolation to the Apple operating system places it squarely in an early phase.
A brief history of tipping
While tipping in the digital age has been linked to the rise of the creator economy, the phenomenon is not new.
In the U.S., it has its roots in the caste system in Europe. Early references include the tipping of U.S servants who worked well while away with their employers in Europe. When the families returned to the U.S. after their break, they kept up this practice.
During the reconstruction period following the American Civil War, freed black Americans worked in service jobs. These included railroad porters, barbers, and restaurant workers. Their employers would often not pay them, rather expecting guests to offer a small tip instead.
Despite resistance, the popularity of the practice grew. By 1926 all legislature banning tipping was deemed unconstitutional by the courts.
Fast forward to 2021, and a pandemic later, tipping is still happening. However, its medium has changed from a few notes or coins to online payments.
TipYo was one of the early players in the digital tipping space. It initially provided a way for hotel guests to tip the valet, the bellman, or the housekeeper by entering their room number into an app and adding a payment method.
Similar projects have sprung up, with varying levels of success. However, they are often region-specific and require a connection to a bank account.
Tipping and the creator economy
The rise of the internet, even in its Web2 custodial form, brought with it the removal of intermediaries in some industries.
Musicians, artists, and others, especially creatives, could share their work and have others appreciate it directly. This still left much to be desired when it came to income, however.
Enter the creator tipping economy. Now users can directly respond to and appreciate their favorite creators by paying them online.
Not only is this beneficial to those in content-creating jobs. It is also crucial as more work is becoming gig and freelance-based. While these jobs do pay some form of salary, much of the benefit comes from added tips.
While Uber may have started off as a one-price pay system, it introduced tips for drivers and even tips for restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, the ability to make money off of content has risen with demand and growth. Social media influencers who were previously paid by promotions can now add direct content payment on some platforms.
Content creation platforms are now offering ways for their users to make money from their content. TikTok recently allowed users who meet specific criteria to apply for a tipping feature.
In addition, Soundcloud is working on a tipping scheme for artists, and Twitter rolled out its general tip feature on May 6, 2021.
Enter bitcoin Twitter tips
Following on from its general tip integration with popular fiat apps, Twitter turned to bitcoin.
Strike’s API integration with Twitter was a welcomed move in the world of bitcoin payments. It brought another direct payment option, but with a currency devoid of some fiat shortfalls.
This API is successful because of its use of the Lightning Network. This is a second tier of the bitcoin blockchain that provides separate micropayment channels between different parties to form a network of lightning nodes.
The channels enable secure payments between two parties in exchange for performing only a few transactions on the blockchain.
The benefit of Lightning is that it solves the two biggest issues when it comes to bitcoin transactions. There are the time and cost of completing a payment. By cutting down the time and cost, something as quick and straightforward as BTC Twitter payments is possible.
Twitter bitcoin rollout is still small
Twitter’s explainer blog on tipping starts with the headline “Bringing Tips to everyone.”
However, on deeper inspection, “everyone” cannot interact with the various tipping mechanisms if we’re talking about users outside the U.S.
Starting with the conventional tipping, the apps on offer for integration are highly U.S.-based. Twitter even acknowledges this with an asterisk, pointing a reader to the fact that it is region-specific.
Regarding bitcoin tips, the U.S and El Salvador limit, in which Strike operates, makes the availability incredibly slim.
Expanding Strike and the Lightning Network
This does not mean access to payment pathways like Twitter tips will remain within just these two countries forever.
Maller says that Strike plans to roll out to 200 countries in partnership with Bittrex Global. All Bittrex users will be onboarded onto Strike and Lightning.
Although not confirmed, the exchange’s reach should enable Strike account users to connect their wallets on Twitter.
Mallers explains in an Investor’s Podcast Network interview that he aims to bring financial inclusivity to countries with a large unbanked population. He references Strike’s rollout in El Salvador as an example, which sees 20% of the country’s GDP comes from expensive cross-border remittances.
This is a long-term goal of many in the cryptocurrency world. Remittances are often cited as a key area where crypto can directly help people.
In addition to the announcement with Bittrex, in October 2021, Strike announced “global” tips for iOS users. This means that those in countries not covered by Strike can send tips to those in the U.S. and El Salvador but cannot receive tips in return.
Although Strike and Mallers did not reply to BeinCrypto’s request for an interview, he is on record explaining the slow global rollout.
In the What Bitcoin Did podcast, he emphasizes the importance of quality assurance in all their products.
According to Mallers, “dematerializing” all existing money functions onto a singular monetary standard is not trivial. As such, he explains that they are not being hasty with the rollout. He says they want to get it right rather than get it fast.
Paying with bitcoin is not a pipe dream
While the scope of BTC Twitter tips is small and the steps to global reach taking their time, they offer some insight into a future with regular bitcoin transactions.
It may still be some time as new issues arise with every step forward. However, the interest in making this a viable reality is clear from those, like Strike and others, which actively push this agenda forward.