Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tipjoy API Idea #2: Paid Protected accounts

People use Twitter to spread links to cool things. Some of those links could be really valuable:
- Early access to blog posts, before they hit the front page
- Links to coupons for discounts on other services
- Secrets from an authoritative, though perhaps anonymous, group
- Thoughts from renown thinkers, who would rather get cash to donate to a charity than have everyone follow them

We think there should be an easy way to power paid protected accounts, where followers could gain access by tweeting a payment. You can easily build a service which lets people make paid protected accounts with Tipjoy's Twitter Payments API. Here is how:

You'll need the Twitter credentials for both the protected account and those who are following it. Let the protected account customize the price, and give them a landing page on your service to customize where potential followers go to pay for access. Create Tipjoy accounts for the protected account and the new followers.

The status updates for the target account should be protected. Ideally this would be done with a Twitter API call, but that doesn't appear to exist for this functionality. Instead, you can send protected-account creators to their Twitter Account Settings page to do this.

For the new followers, after they have Tipjoy accounts, they pay to subscribe. First, initiate a payment over Twitter. It should be directed to the account to be followed. It could also be directed at the permalink on the service for the protected user, e.g. for @ikirigin. If not directed at the protected user, periodic payouts to that user from the service could be used to transfer the funds over. If the service were to take a cut, this would be one way to take it: just reduce the payout. Alternatively, if you want payments go straight to the protected account, just periodically initiate payments from the protected account to the service.

Check if transaction has been paid just by looking at the return from the payment API call. If it hasn't, create a sign-in link that sends the user to to pay their bill. (Soon, we'll create a Tipjoy API endpoint to provide credit card information to associate with the user, so the payment fufillment step would only need to occur once for all transactions for the user.)

Track the payment if it was unpaid using this call.

Once the transaction is paid, use the Twitter API to request to follow the paid account. Approve the follower using a Twitter API call. This also might not exist yet, but we hear they are working on it. The alternative till then is to give the protected account easy management tools to know whom to approve.

You can get a batch listing of the payments sent to the protected account using this call.


At April 15, 2009 at 7:44 PM , Blogger Guillaume said...

It's an interesting idea. I don't think it will work on a massive level until protection is available on a Tweet per Tweet basis, but it may be useful for "star" users.

I think it would also make sense that if @a owes money to @b and @b owes money to @a then @a and @b get charged nothing (or only the difference in subscription fees). It would be ridiculous to pay transaction fees for this scenario.

The fact that the larger number of followers I have the lower my fee needs to be, combined with the above has interesting implications: someone that participates enough with valuable enough Tweets may pay nothing at all overall.

At April 16, 2009 at 4:55 AM , Blogger Ivan said...

Luckily, that's how Tipjoy works underneath our Twitter Payments, Guillaume.

If User A owes anyone $2, and User B gives them $5, that $2 is paid off immediately.

An individual tweet could be protected behind another service, call it secret tweet.

User A tweets: "I posted a secret tweet:"

User B sends $X to that URL, perhaps right on the service, and can read the message.

The decreasing price with increased # of followers could definitely be modeled in the service.

At April 17, 2009 at 11:23 AM , Blogger Guillaume Lebleu said...

Ivan, have you researched the tax implications of balancing out payments? are tipjoy-earned tip dollars taxable? if so, in our example, should A and B both pay tax on payments/tips they've made to one another or only on the balance?

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