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Tippin, a newly launched browser extension that integrates a bitcoin-tipping function with Twitter, lets social media pundits profit from their vile tweets, representing a thrillingly effective application of the nascent Lightning Network.
Developed by Spanish coder Sergio Abril, Tippin adds a “lightning” button next to Twitter’s “retweet” button that, when clicked, brings up an address to which people can send Bitcoin microtransactions.
It sounds fun—and it’s all the rage! Though the app has been around since December, since its Chrome extension was released Monday, it’s been having a moment.
“This is excellent” tweeted Twitter chief Jack Dorsey, an early investor in the Lightning Network. “I’m too big of a Lightning Network fan to not sign up for a Tippin account,” followed Anthony Pompliano, while Brenna Sparks—the adult actress who advises Spankchain—wrote, “Tip me and maybe I’ll post nudes.” They joined the likes of Erik Voorhees and Tim Copeland among the many crypto-Twitter luminaries who are now using the app.
Neeraj K. Agrawal, the always amusing-in-tweet communications director at crypto think-tank CoinCenter, marveled at “how easy it is to fire up a new toy app and just start flinging actual money around,” adding: “I don’t think you can do that with anything else.”
We asked Agrawal, who has been soliciting donations, how much money he’s raked in. “I made five bucks,” he said, adding however that he has yet to tip anyone. “There have been no good tweets.”
Tippin permits users to donate in “satoshis,” one of which is worth one millionth of a bitcoin, or $0.00 ดอลลาร์สหรัฐ (a real number, apparently). The $5 Agrawal received constituted 31 such microtransactions. To work the app, users need only set up a Lightning Network-enabled digital wallet, such as “Blue Wallet” which your correspondent, a typical Everyperson, took three hours to do. With limited success, thus far.
Dan Rusnac, a consultant at blockchain firm Corp 137, wrote in a Medium post that Tippin was refreshingly simple. “Instead of creating new social networks with their own economic system, token, blockchain, etc. (e.g.: steemit),” he wrote, “you can directly use the already existing social networks just by installing a simple browser extension that adds a button.”
So we tried it out. It was not simple. To make the thing work, you need to first download the browser extension (easy), set up one of several unintuitive Lightning wallets (a near life-ruining ordeal for your correspondent), then parse several volumes of contradictory instructions on Twitter and Medium before the red mist descends and iPhones are defenestrated. Maybe that’s why only a few hundred people had installed the Chrome extension late yesterday night when we checked.
Still, it's early innings and Agrawal is hopeful. “I’d like to see it grow beyond just a toy for bitcoin people to throw satoshis at each other,” he said. “The idea of a native tipping option on popular social media isn’t new, even in crypto, but still feels unexplored. Like why should a viral tweet poster have to post their Venmo in a reply to their own post?"
“It would be nice,” he added, “if they can be paid for their art with a tipping mechanism.” This was the first time we’d heard of making wisecracks in Twitter described as an art, but fine. Why not?
Other tipping mechanisms do exist. An Ethereum-based cryptocurrency called “donuts” thrived on Reddit before plunging the community into turmoil amid allegations of vote rigging. Meanwhile Bitcoin Cash fans have used Reddit-based tipping bot Tippr to reward commenters with upwards of $100,000 worth of donations since it launched.
Yet Tippin, with its particular Bitcoin-Chrome-Twitter fusion, has tapped three bona fide brand titans with more mainstream clout than the other, rather obscure crypto subreddits.
Zack Voell, a researcher at Messari with expertise on the Lightning Network, told Decrypt that Tippin was a “brilliantly convenient, fun, use case for Lightning payments.” Although he stressed that both Tippin and Lightning Network were beta-phase platforms, he acknowledged it was “very difficult to be bearish on [Sergio Abril’s] project.”
“Will [Abril] single-handedly bring Lightning to the mainstream,” Voell asked. “Probably not. But his app and every project like it are breaking down barriers to normal, everyday Lightning use brick by brick.”
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