Disclosure: the author of this article has had a small role in copywriting for UpTweet. This article was written independently of this fact.
After months of development, the upstart social media site UpTweet has recently announced that it is officially going live. On the surface, UpTweet is a general-purpose online social news and discussion site similar to Reddit, where users can submit and read posts sorted by the specific category that they are interested in. The list of categories is diverse, including news, sports, technology, health and even a “marketplace” category for buying and selling goods. However, the core concept behind UpTweet, and hence its name, is that the site is completely integrated with Twitter. A Twitter account is required to make posts and comments, and all posts and comments that a user makes are immediately published under the user’s account on Twitter as well. When a user posts a reply to a comment on UpTweet, he is also tweeting a reply to the tweet corresponding to the comment that he is replying to; every single conversation on UpTweet takes place on Twitter at the same time. The basic intent behind UpTweet’s design is that UpTweet attempts to bridge the gap between Twitter, with its 140-character headlines, and the deep conversation that is now only seen through forums and lengthy blog posts. Those who only want a summary of what is going on can read the Twitter feed, while those who want to go in deeper can click a link and see the full conversation on UpTweet instead.
UpTweet also extends what is currently possible with social media in another big way: integration with Bitcoin. Every time one of your posts gets retweeted on Twitter or “uptweeted” on UpTweet itself, a functionality similar to upvotes on Reddit but which also triggers an automatic retweet, a small payment gets added to your on-site wallet account. The amount is currently 0.0001 BTC per uptweet, but may go up or down depending on UpTweet’s advertising revenue.
Integrating Bitcoin with social media has been tried before, and at first it did have little success. In 2011, Witcoin offered users the ability to support posts that they like by tipping them with the currency, but the idea never caught on, and the site has since shut down. The Bitcoin-based paid question-and-answer boardRugatu has existed for many months, but its user base has so far remained fairly small. Twitter itself has been linked with BTC previously withFeedZeBirds, but that project, despite some degree of initial prominence, has now also died down. More recently, however, fortunes have turned in favor of such a merger.Bitcointip, a bot on Reddit that allows anyone to tip any other user in BTC, launched about a month ago, and is now actively operating with a total of about $25 tipped every day. UpTweet, with its per-retweet reward system, serves as a complement to Bitcointip – while with Bitcointip, one gets rich by getting lucky with a large tip from a particular individual, on UpTweet, the path to Bitcoin prosperity is pleasing the masses.
UpTweet’s growth strategy is rather different from most other Bitcoin-related services. The vast majority of Bitcoin businesses that we see today are specifically centered around Bitcoin, offering services that are usually available elsewhere but for Bitcoin. UpTweet, however, is treating Bitcoin integration largely as a sideshow, and is pursuing its own path in marketing itself. Topics on UpTweet include mainstream subjects such as entertainment and music, and UpTweet has already run an ad in Times Square. Once users start using UpTweet for its Twitter integration, the hope is that they will be attracted to Bitcoin as well. Founder Brian Santos writes, “We are getting people into Bitcoin without them even knowing it. That’s the way it’s supposed to be really – Bitcoin-centric sites are a thing of the past. For Bitcoin to succeed, it needs to go ‘mainstream’”.
UpTweet founder Brian Santos has also agreed to share his thoughts on UpTweet and the future of Bitcoin and social media as a whole in an interview:
1. To start off, could you introduce yourself to our readers? What is your background, and are there any other projects that you are involved in in the Bitcoin community?
My name is Brian Santos. I’m a digital artist, software developer, project manager, and marketing analyst based out of the sunshine state of Florida. I have been working with computers since I was 10 years old, before I even had my first desktop computer, I was coding websites on my WebTV Philips MAT-972 via 28KBPS dialup (“Blazing Fast Speeds”). I was always interested in building social networks through different communities like GeoCities and tools like IRC. I was also heavily into clans (Starcraft) and even ran one of the largest clans in Battle.net (Clan iM). I have always been enthralled with technology, owning dozens of computer rigs (many that I built myself), and learning a series of different programming languages and frameworks. I discovered Bitcoin in early 2011 and became fascinated by the entire idea of “free money”. After becoming heavily involved in UpTweet and correlating the Bitcoin technology with the Twitter API I now truly appreciate the true genius behind the divisibility and expandability of Bitcoin. I also learned that Bitcoins are far from “free”. I think BTC are a no-brainer, being the most transparent monetary system man has ever known. In addition to UpTweet I also own the Bitcoin Tees and memorabilia site http://bitcoinpride.com, and I am working on several top secret Bitcoin projects.
2. How did you first come up with the idea behind UpTweet?
About 3 years ago I was introduced to Twitter. The news report I first read talked about a revolutionary new system that was exploding into the scene at incredible speed. At first I didn’t quite grasp the usefulness of the service that limited everything you said to 140 characters. It wasn’t until I got more acquainted that I started to understand why the network was setup in such a fashion. Twitter (at the time) was positioning itself to take over as an alternative to paid text messaging services. Twitter allows users to tweet each other via direct SMS (and landline service in some regions), and to keep in line with universal standards, Twitter limits each post to 140 characters. From a marketing perspective I fell in love with Twitter almost instantly. The fact that it allows for direct access to a users fan base and does not limit how big or fast they can grow, makes it the ideal platform for a popularity based blogging system. As I learned more I began to work with Twitters infrastructure, and I started to notice some of the shortfalls that Twitter was suffering from. I wanted to create a system that removed all of the limitations that Twitter presented its users with, while at the same time keeping a truly integrated Twitter experience that enhances the service.
3. What audience is UpTweet aimed at? What would be an example of an “ideal user” of your service?
UpTweet is aimed for everyone and anyone. It has all of the most relevant categories to suit any user from entertainment to current news from all all over the world. We want to make sure that we provide a dynamic experience for all of our users. This means that a tweeter will only get fed topics that they want to hear about. We want to make sure that our categories are targeted and easy to identify. An ideal UpTweet user would be a blogger or reporter who lives in an interesting region and has many stories to talk about, yet lacks the resources or connections to get their work out to the mass public. UpTweet solves the resource issue by intimately integrating every UpTweet/Retweet on the site with the incorruptible, uncensored, and global digital currency Bitcoin. UpTweet also solves the reachability issue in 2 ways. We syndicate all of our users content throughout our vast network of over 80,000 Twitter followers and growing. On top of syndicating every piece of content, the post is added automatically to UpTweets popularity ladder which increases visibility and enhances user engagement. We want to provide an all-in-one service, and we hope to use the reachability of Twitter to fuel our process.
4. How are you marketing UpTweet? What groups of people are you targeting right now?
Since we just launched our site, we are now beginning to execute on our core marketing strategies. As said in the last paragraph, we are trying to target everyone and anyone. We want to have a dynamic community that defines itself with every post. We are going to market our site using a variety of different marketing techniques and paid choices. We first plan on getting our core group of site users established, and hope that this group is composed of mostly Bitcoiners. We want to have a core of devoted and intelligent individuals that watch over the general traffic on the site, and help maintain the level of quality and prestige that we’re looking for at UpTweet, all while earning a sizable amount Bitcoins.
5. Your service is also integrated with Bitcoin – it pays out a rate that is currently 0.0001 BTC every time one of your posts gets up-tweeted. What is your marketing strategy for introducing Bitcoin to new UpTweet users who may not have heard of Bitcoin before?
A lot of users who sign on to the site do not know what Bitcoin is. This is a good thing, as it gives them a truly organic experience with the currency, and introduces them to BTC in small baby steps, instead of forcing them to dive in to the sea of information relating to Bitcoin. Our strategy is to educate our user base, using the existing community as a support mechanism for the broader audience on the site.
6. How do you intend to protect yourselves from fraudulent accounts? There are undoubtedly armies of tens of thousands of Twitter bots on the internet, and it’s a problem that FeedZeBirds has had to deal with too; what kinds of measures to you have to prevent them from draining out all your funds?
Currently there are no Bitcoins on the server. All the user accounts are put into a “pending balance”. Every single payout is manually verified by our staff. Once someones posts are verified, Bitcoins are then deposited into the user’s online (onsite) wallet. From there they can withdraw to any wallet or service of their choice. If someone tries to manipulate our system, they will not get paid. Users who post a lot will be “auto-verified” and Bitcoins will be deposited automatically as the Retweets come in.
7. Do you see Twitter as becoming a more important social media platform in the future? Why or why not?
I obviously think that Twitter is the future. I believe that by the time they have their IPO, Twitter will be the #1 social network in the world (overtaking Facebook). The reachability and instantaneousness of Twitter is a force that is going to be very hard to stop. Tools like UpTweet will only continue seal the deal further, as they will fill holes that Twitter simply has not bothered to look at. Twitter is focused on improving their infrastructure and overall platform, and instead they are leaving all the feature enhancements to firms like ours. I believe this is a winning strategy, and it will only continue to make Twitter (the core platform) that much more relevant, by having sister companies that heavily rely on their business model.
8. What do you think about the idea of combining of social media and micropayments in particular? What kind of unique potential do you think this combination has?
I believe that rewards based social media is the next logical step in this fascinating evolution of human interaction. It’s interesting when you think about it. The first step in modern communication is verbal, the second is almost always monetary. For example when you invite someone for dinner the first thing on your mind is the conversations you will be having, and the second is how you will be paying for the conversations to take place. As people become more and more tech savvy they will surely want to be compensated for their time, and they should! We believe we are way ahead of our time, but it’s a challenge that we are eager to take on.
9. What other trends in social networking do you think are going to become dominant over the next few years? How do you see UpTweet fitting into this future?
I believe that the Arab Spring is just the beginning of this social “awakening” that we are witnessing world wide. I believe that every single dictator in power today will not be there in 10 years’ time. People are rising and taking back their freedoms that were once stolen from them. They are using tools like Twitter & Bitcoin to make these ideas successful realities. The world is sick and tired of war, famine, and overall corruption. Not only are we seeing social media being used to topple entire dictatorships I.E. Muammar Gaddafi, but also we are seeing it as a way to keep existing governments in check. We are witnessing this in Egypt with Mohamed Morsi and his attempt to implement a radical decree which would have essentially made him dictator. There was immediate public backlash fueled entirely by social media. Morsi is now withdrawing any “interest” for such decree, and I believe it has something to do with the whole world now watching his every move. Bitcoin will only intensify this as it knows no ruler other than the beautiful code which brings about it’s existence. It will be used a weapon by the people to directly fight corruption with nothing but truth and riotous determination for a chance at a better life.
10. Any last words for our readers?
Think outside the box. I KNOW this sounds typical, but serious Bitcoiners should pay attention… Right now I see many people in the community making Bitcoin centric websites that cater to Bitcoiners, and yet do not seek expand on the protocol in any meaningful way beyond your typical “pay me here” scenario. We need to break away from the stigma that seems to “outcast” any business that doesn’t have “Bitcoin” in its name. This is wrong, and it’s the kind of backwards thinking that will keep the community and the currency from ever growing beyond its targeted and specific niche. If you are a struggling developer, an entrepreneur, or a general Bitcoin power user, it should be your sole duty to diversify your portfolio with Bitcoin related projects that expand on the existing user base by offering innovative ideas that captivate the user and make them want to learn MORE instead of LESS. Information overload is a huge problem in our community, and it should be our top priority to minimize this into the cleanest way possible. If you make Bitcoins “just another currency”, we will fade into the realm of irrelevance. If we make Bitcoins something FUN that people want to use regardless of the politics, then we WILL win…. This is what we should be aiming for: an apolitical coin that facilitates real solutios that wow the masses.
Vitalik Buterin is a co-founder of Bitcoin Magazine who has been involved in the Bitcoin community since 2011, and has contributed to Bitcoin both as a writer and the developer of a fork of bitcoinjs-lib, pybitcointools and multisig.info, as well as one of the developers behind Egora. Now, Vitalik's primary job is as the main developer of Ethereum, a project which intends to create a next-generation smart contract and decentralized application platform that allows people to create any kind of decentralized application on top of a blockchain that can be imagined.