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On January 20, 2022, Twitter launched a new non-fungible token (NFT) feature for its Twitter Blue usersa paid subscription service that gives its users access to premium services. This includes editing published tweets, posting longer videos, reading news without advertisements and more. Twitter Blue will allow people to showcase the NFTs they own by setting them as their profile pictures.
The current NFT feature is only available on iOSalthough Twitter says that it will soon be rolled out on Android smartphones as well. The Twitter Blue service is not globally available, and it’s only offered in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. However, Twitter says that the new NFT profile picture feature will be visible to everyone, regardless of the Twitter platform.
Twitter had shown its interest in NFTs when people started changing their profile pictures to showcase their NFTs. In September 2021, it started exploring the idea of an official authentication that will allow NFT owners to showcase their digital assets. With this new feature, Twitter has officially become the first social media platform to launch something specially dedicated to NFT users.
NFTs or non-fungible tokens are digital collectiblesoften works of art that provide unique ownership of the collectible to the buyer. Like cryptocurrencies, they are traded on the blockchain. However, they are non-fungible (ie, one NFT cannot be exchanged for another because of the unique value assigned to that particular NFT).
NFTs have become quite a lucrative industry, with some NFTs selling for millions of dollars. Last year, an artwork collection by creator Mike Winkelmann was sold at a swooping $69,346,250 at an online auction.
The NFT trend came into action when sports stars and celebrity NFTs were sold by the NBA earlier in 2021. It produced more in a month than the entire NFT market produced in the entire year of 2020. OpenSea, a leading NFT marketplace, experienced a jump in trading volume from $329 million in July to $3.4 billion in August.
People, especially millennials, are bullish about NFTs, projecting them as the next big thing after Bitcoin. Some of them are also looking at NFTs as a vehicle of investment and considering buying them. Irrespective of whether the NFT trend is just ephemeral or sustainable, NFTs have definitely become the talk of the day, with its market expanding every minute. And this move by Twitter speaks to their popularity this time.
Twitter authenticating unique ownership
As discussed above, crypto enthusiasts have been showcasing their NFTs on their profile pictures a long time before this feature was launched. This feature prevents people from copying others’ NFTs and displaying them on their profile pictures. This is done through an official verification mechanism launched by Twitter after much deliberation. NFT owners can do this by linking their Ethereum wallet to their Twitter account, which will present them with a list of NFTs they own.
At the moment, Twitter only supports a limited number of Ethereum wallets including Coinbase Wallet, Rainbow, MetaMask, Ledger Live, Argent and Trust Wallet. However, it plans to expand to other wallets soon. After linking the wallet, users can easily choose which NFT they want to display on their profile.
Their chosen NFT will get a hexagonal border instead of the normal circular one. This is done to underline the uniqueness and authenticity of that NFT. So, if anyone tries to copy your NFT and use it as their profile picture, they will get the normal circular frame.
Therefore, Twitter prevents your NFT from being stolen and displayed as someone else’s profile picture. However, if the stealer re-uploads that image to an NFT platform and mints an identical NFT, they might be able to get that hexagonal frame. It is not yet known how Twitter will prevent that kind of forgery.
Despite this drawback, the current effort by Twitter to protect NFTs is being applauded by crypto enthusiasts and advocates who are also looking at this as a step toward the mainstream adoption of blockchain and crypto.
Another issue with this new feature is the usage of application programming interfaces (APIs) to fetch users’ NFTs from online marketplaces. Twitter brings a third party into this verification instead of directly interacting with the blockchain. This means that if the marketplace goes down, Twitter may not be able to load those NFT profile pictures.
After this feature was launched, several people reported that their profile picture was not loading because Twitter uses the API of OpenSea, an NFT marketplace, which suffered an outage leading to the difficulty in loading profile pictures on Twitter.
This new announcement to support NFT profile pictures came in line with Twitter’s commitment to decentralized technologies. Last year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said that Bitcoin would be a big part of Twitter’s future. Later in September, it rolled out a feature that allowed Twitter users to tip content creators in Bitcoin. It is also taking progressive measures to build a crypto team focused on cryptocurrencies, blockchain and decentralized technologies.
Other important players like Meta are also exploring the prospects of launching an NFT marketplace on its Facebook and Instagram platforms. Social media platforms are often the first places where people want to showcase and display their work. Therefore, a feature like this will definitely give momentum to the NFT market. However, it is yet to be seen how and in what capacity these features are launched.
The bottom line
With the new NFT profile picture feature, Twitter has become the first major social media platform to recognize the importance of NFTs in this growing market. As more social media platforms adopt NFTs, the NFT market and popularity will grow.
The integration of social media and NFT can open a new stream of opportunities for content creators who will now be able to reach a much wider audience to showcase their artwork. It is yet to be seen how well this new feature is taken by NFT owners themselves and how they respond to this new Twitter feature.
Ian Kane is the co-founder at Unbanked, a global fintech platform built on blockchain. Kane has worked in technology and digital media for over 10 years, with a heavy focus on business development, sales and strategy.
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