In Stream Payments: “Walled Garden” Approach by Twitter?

Over the last decade, social media firms like Twitter and Facebook have started touching our lives in more ways than we could imagine. They have transformed into astral locations for start-ups as well as big brands to promote themselves. Although social commerce has been slow in adoption so far, it has certainly started to gain traction in the last one year. There is a plethora of start-ups and technology companies that are trying their luck with the social media based commerce and In Stream Payments. While many of them have come and gone, firms like Chirpify and Stipple have not given up on this space and keep coming up with frequent new developments. However, we foresee the platform providers themselves (like Facebook and Twitter) to be prominent players in this space in years to come. Money touches every transaction in one way or the other and almost all parts of commerce. Payments innovation is happening at the forefront of technology and Twitter and Facebook are not going to be left behind.

The in-stream commerce has its appeal in its simplicity and usability across networks. Using keywords and hash-tags like buy, need and want certainly makes buying and doing payment very simple for the end user. The brands using these platforms have now started searching for more options, and third party players like Chirpify are trying their best to remove the frictions and enable users to enjoy direct payment processing as a part of the transaction process. Success of such initiatives will make this space really attractive for the merchants.

Imagine in your tweeter feed, a regular customized array of products with pictures appear with prices. It knows what you like, and what you were searching for today. You just click on a pic and through twitter cards, it takes you to the app which has your credentials and processes the payments. And that's about it. A simple and effective way to do commerce.

One would assume that the social media players will serve as the good old platforms for these third party players to play their own game. However, the recent developments in this space leave us with different thoughts altogether.

Sample this: In April 2013, Ribbon, a company based out of San Francisco, grabbed eyeballs when it launched an in-stream payment process for Twitter. It allowed the subscribers of Twitter to buy and sell things directly through news feeds.

In about couple of hours, Twitter put an end to it, without specifying any concrete reasons.

Earlier in the year, Ribbon has managed 1.6 Mn funding, and is also offering an in-stream payment option for Facebook.

Few days later, another start-up, Flattr, was blocked by Twitter. The company described itself as a Payment service that allowed people to get paid for having their Tweets marked as favorite by someone else.

There are other examples of such downplay by Tweeter too. The company acquired an iPhone app named Tweetie in April 2010, and then, it partnered with Twitpic, to launch its new interface, in 2012.

Year Developments April 2010 Twitter acquires Tweetie, an iPhone app for payments April 2013 The company stopped Ribbon, an in-stream payment process company April 2013 Flattr, a payment services firm, services were blocked by Twitter

This looks like the modern day avatar of the Walled garden approach. In stream payments is so important for twitter that it wants to probably do its own gig.

Tweets have come a long way from being 140-character plain texts to expandable previews of videos, news, contents, images and what not. The company announced its Mobile cards in April 2013, which indicates its seriousness and commitment to the social media based e-commerce market.

In fact, if the industry sources are to be believed, Twitter will soon allow users to make purchases from the website directly. The company has been rumored to be signing a deal with payments start-up Stripe. If this deal materializes, it will allow Twitter to accept card based payments from users directly. [Source – Recode]

Facebook, on the other hand, is making its own progress on this front. It is allowing users to send and receive gifts to each other.

Industry sources have also told us in the past that, Twitter has been working on e-commerce products like tweet to buy and Tweet to send money. We don’t know the reason why the company left these projects before they could see the light of the day. But there are more rumors coming in about a Twitter created in-stream payment model.