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Twitter sets up crypto team to explore decentralised apps

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Twitter is launching a dedicated crypto team, marking the latest push by chief executive Jack Dorsey to embrace digital assets and decentralised apps and the ballooning communities around them.

The social network has hired Tess Rinearson to lead the new Twitter Crypto team and “set the strategy for the future of crypto at (and on) Twitter”, the company told the Financial Times.

Twitter Crypto is designed to be “a centre of excellence for all things blockchain and web3”, it added, referring to the term given to the growing number of decentralised apps that run on public blockchains.

“We’re exploring ways to incorporate decentralised technologies into our products and infrastructure,” Twitter said, adding that it in the short term it was exploring payments, ways for people creating content to earn crypto, and the “decentralisation of social media”.

Dorsey, a renowned bitcoin enthusiast, has long said he wants to integrate digital assets into Twitter’s future, after successfully introducing bitcoin support to the payments company Square that he also runs, two years ago.

In September, Twitter said it was introducing a new tool that will allow users to send tips to others for their content using bitcoin. It also said it was creating a feature for verifying non-fungible tokens (NFTs), digital collectibles that have exploded in popularity this year and that some Twitter users use as their profile pictures.

Working under Twitter’s chief technology officer Parag Agrawal, Rinearson is tasked with overseeing and building on these efforts. She has previously worked at crypto groups such as Interchain, a group focused on developing open-source decentralised technologies, and Interstellar, a decentralised crypto wallet and exchange.

The appointment comes amid a growing buzz in Silicon Valley around the web3 movement, which seeks to disrupt Big Tech companies that store user data on central servers and seek to monetise that data.

In the web3 ecosystem, by contrast, decentralised apps run on public blockchains, meaning data is not collected by any one party, while users can be offered token-based rewards for participating.

Several social platforms alongside Twitter, such as Reddit and Discord, have hinted that they are also exploring ways to integrate with decentralised apps and embrace some of the concepts of web3 to their platforms.

“Twitter gets crypto, and its early integration of Bitcoin Tips and NFT authentication demonstrates that,” said Rinearson. “There’s so much more to explore to help people participate in the promise of an evolving, decentralised internet, directly on Twitter.”

Rinearson will also be part of Twitter’s Bluesky, an independent project funded by Twitter designed to find ways to decentralise social media in particular. The working group, made up of Twitter staffers as well as outside experts, is developing a single standard — or protocol — upon which social platforms and other developers can build more tailored offerings, with a view to making them more interoperable.

On top of that, developers might then create a marketplace of moderation algorithms or filters, at a time of intense debate over how user-generated content should be moderated. However, experts have questioned whether such a system has the potential to cannibalise Twitter’s existing advertising-driven business model.

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