Big news for the NFT crowd: you can now make your NFT your Twitter profile picture. Well, yes, you could have done that before, but now you can verify through blockchain that you own it, and Twitter will reward you with a hexagon around it. And it's only for Twitter Blue subscribers, only on iPhones, and only in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. And it's only for NFTs minted on Ethereum and stored on OpenSea.
So... is it actually big news?
I say it is—for NFT fans and for Twitter as a company. But it's also a moment that will further fuel critics of NFTs and of Twitter.
Twitter first teased this feature four months ago, and we wrote at the time that it was "full of promise" but also "fraught with peril." Now the feature is live, and whether you're a Bored Ape collector tweeting "wagmi" and "looks rare" all day, or a staunch NFT hater threatening to boycott every game-maker that implements NFTs, or somewhere inbetween, here are 5 reasons to pay attention to how this goes.
1. The feature helps show people how NFTs work. The popular rallying cry of people who think NFTs are stupid is "I just right-clicked and saved it." Anyone with enough patience typically explains that non-fungible tokens are blockchain-based ownership certificates, so while anyone can screenshot it and display it, that's not the same as owning it. Twitter's feature shows rather than just telling: only the owner of an NFT can prove, by plugging into the Ethereum blockchain, that they own it, and get the verified hexagon.
2. The divide between NFT fanatics and NFT haters is getting worse. The well-documented hatred that so many people (especially gamers) have for NFTs is not going to dissipate overnight, and the way Twitter is displaying the verified NFTs is making the vitriol even stronger. Emma Langevin, a Twitch streamer with 725,000 followers, tweeted, "Twitter just asked me if i wanted to make my pfp an NFT i'm shaking i'm throwing up i'm crying i just wanna go back in time before those nerds made this shit mainstream." Just search "hexagon" on Twitter to see more mocking. Ross O'Donovan, another Twitch streamer, encouraged people to "write a script that autoblocks everyone with a hexagon profile picture." Another person likened the hexagon PFP to a "kick me" sign.
And they may not be wrong. For the purpose of this column, I signed up for Twitter Blue and selected one of the two NFTs I own as my profile picture. It felt... anti-climactic. I like the NFT (it's a Satoshible) and think the art is cool; but I don't like it as my profile picture, and I don't like the hexagon around it. On the other hand, I'm not a crypto anon who uses my NFT as my entire online identity.
3. Even the NFT crowd isn't entirely happy with the feature. On Thursday, I listened in on a Twitter Spaces entitled, "Did Twitter Just Use Us to Sell a Feature Without Prioritizing Our Needs?" In a heated three-hour forum, NFT fans complained about Twitter using the NFT feature to sell Twitter Blue subscriptions. Capitalists might remind them that Twitter is a business, with shareholders, and needs to generate revenue. But this will be something to monitor: If even the NFT fans ditch the verified NFT PFPs, the feature will be a failure.
4. The feature marks Twitter even more as a pro-crypto company. It wouldn't be quite right to call Twitter a Web3 company—not until it runs on a blockchain—but embracing NFT profile pictures and crypto tipping plants a flag. After Bitcoin maximalist Jack Dorsey exited, some onlookers wondered if Twitter would back away from crypto. Instead, it went in deeper, and went beyond Bitcoin. Still, most Twitter shareholders will not like it. Facebook and Square both saw their stocks dive when they rebranded to Meta and Block, respectively. The NFT rollout did nothing to help Twitter stock, which fell 9% this week.
5. Twitter just gave OpenSea an even bigger lead. OpenSea is the top NFT marketplace by a longshot, and smashed its monthly record last week only halfway through the month. It has a huge lead over challengers like SuperRare, Foundation, Nifty Gateway, Zora, Rarible, and LooksRare. If you're those marketplaces, you are not happy to see the Twitter feature; it's like Facebook adding a feature for sharing your sneaker collection, but only supporting Nike sneakers. What will those marketplaces do now to stand out and compete?
I'm changing my PFP back to the real me—but I'll be watching as the NFT PFP drama intensifies.
This is Roberts on Crypto, a weekend column from Decrypt Editor-in-Chief Daniel Roberts and Decrypt Executive Editor Jeff John Roberts. Sign up for the Decrypt Debrief email newsletter to receive it in your inbox every Saturday. And read last weekend's column: Web3 Is Not a Scam, But It Can Feel Like One.