A pair of companies has launched services on Twitter that allow users to transact in Bitcoin across the microblogging site. And while Twitter has been selective of what companies facilitate payments in the past, the social networking giant hasn't yet touched these Bitcoin services.
"Some companies are more open to understanding what the innovation really means and more open to experimenting with it," says Richard Kohl of PikaPay. Kohl and Joris Bontje, who was a software developer for many large banks in Europe, are founding members of PikaPay.
Based in Amsterdam, PikaPay allows users to send bitcoin to anyone on Twitter and also receive bitcoin through their Twitter handle. When users sign up for PikaPay, they are automatically given a Bitcoin wallet address that links to their Twitter identities.
When PikaPay first released its application programming interface in early 2011, it looked a lot like TipperCoin, a tipping bot that launched at the end of December. TipperCoin allows users to send bitcoin to another user with the hashtag tippercoin.
In its early days, Twitter engineers were using PikaPay, says Kohl. "Engineers in general are very excited about Bitcoin," he says. "Some at Twitter were early Bitcoin adopters."
Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.
But PikaPay wanted to create a service that was secure and had more functionality to push Bitcoin to a larger mainstream audience, especially Twitter's 200 million active users.
The company allows users to make their payment tweets either public or private. When a user sends a private payment, the recipient is alerted via direct message. "Twitter would like to encourage that the user isn't surprised that they aren't forced to tweet something but given the option," Kohl says.
Searching for PikaPay on Twitter shows that several individuals have used the service to send bitcoin to their friends. Kohl says the company is in talks with several young, tech-savvy consumer brands wanting to use the service, which is still currently in beta testing. Traditional financial institutions, both inside and outside the U.S., have also taken interest, he says.
"The audience is expanding very quickly," Kohl says. "We've seen people creating Twitter accounts just so they can easily use Bitcoin which is something Twitter must like."
The company is also looking at how brands could use the Bitcoin protocol to create their own "coins" or private currency, Kohl says. PikaPay is also close to launching gift cards and loyalty schemes, he says.
"One exciting thing about being in the Netherlands is that the country has an open and forward-thinking attitude on Bitcoin and innovation," Kohl says.
PikaPay is integrated with the iDEAL, an ecommerce payment system in the Netherlands that allows for real-time purchases directly from a consumer's bank account.
Twitter has been selective about what companies it allows to facilitate payments, but because TipperCoin is an open-source project that works automatically, and its creators don't take a fee, it would be a challenge for Twitter to shut down the service. Twitter would have to block the tippercoin hashtag, but new hashtags could be created daily to get around the block. Meanwhile, PikaPay is implementing a small transaction fee.