Could Twitter become the next PayPal?

"Twitter’s not going to make their money with advertising. So how can they be a Billion Dollar Company in a year?", writes Nate Westheimer over at Silicon Alley Insider. The answer, he says, is for Twitter to get into the P2P mobile payments space.

"Twitter’s not going to make their money with advertising. So how can they be a Billion Dollar Company in a year?", writes Nate Westheimer over at Silicon Alley Insider.

The answer, he says, is for Twitter to get into the P2P mobile payments space.

It's an interesting idea and one that merits some consideration.

Imagine the scenario: you're out at a restaurant with friends or colleagues and it's time to divvy up the bill. You open up your favorite mobile Twitter client or use Twitter via SMS to reimburse the person who is going to settle with the waiter. Instead of the @ (reply) or "d" (Direct Message) machine code, a "p" for payment is used instead.

Say something like "p @sohear $30" (thanks very much!)

Westheimer's argument is that for P2P mobile payments to really take off (and there are already a number of entrants into this space) it needs to be built on top of an existing mobile messaging service, not a standalone online payments system such as PayPal.

Specifically, Westheimer says the communication platform will need to be:

  • Ubiquitous: "Twitter is far from being a ubiquitous mobile platform, but they have more penetration and usage than any other mobile service and their current user base is the same important group of technology early adopters that PayPal enjoyed when it convinced the world that you could send money to an email address."
  • Have users who are already comfortable with 'Machine Language': "One of the most missed facts in the mobile payments space is that users of a system have to be comfortable communicating using machine language." Think @ 'd' and now 'p'.
  • Carrier Independence: "When the [much needed] rearchitecting is all said and done, Twitter will be a carrier independent social messaging platform — one that can harness both the power of the social web AND mobile messaging infrastructure, which will be a powerful one-two punch in the mobile P2P payment space."

What do I think of Westheimer's idea? One word: brilliant. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.