Portland, Oregon-based startup Chirpify has had its eye on payment disruption since day one – which is why it’s only fitting that Wired contributor David Wolman decided to use the service solely to sell digital copies of his new book, The End of Money.
“It was a natural marriage from the beginning because David is writing about what we’re trying to solve – making money and payments and commerce something frictionless and less antiquated,” Chirpify senior account manager Heath Black tells me.
“It struck me as a potentially promising way to make it easier – and maybe cheaper – for readers to get ahold of books that interest them,” says Wolman. And, of course, using such a digitally-friendly system drives home the books focus. “We are definitely in the early days of social commerce. But if you look back just a few years and consider the stratospheric growth of Twitter and Facebook – not just as businesses but also behavior-changing forces – I don’t think it’s outlandish to think that within three to five years, social commerce will be indistinguishable from online commerce.”
While the Twitter-meets-PayPal service has been paving new ground and getting attention for it, you’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of Chirpify. Reimagining the way we pay for things online is tricky business, and the going can be relatively slow. Chirpify is perhaps the first true social commerce platform and enables users to sell and buy items with in-stream transactions on Twitter and Instagram. With a simple tweet or comment reading “buy,” you can scoop up just about anything. Sellers using the platform include rock band Green Day shoe retailer Keen.
The idea is to actually make online payment social; social networks are responsible for pointing us toward things we want to buy, but from there the process is infinite times more complicated and isolating. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are built to entertain, engage, and – like it or not – market to us. But the moment you actually want to take action and purchase something, the process becomes broken.
“We want to decentralize commerce and stop people from thinking in terms of ‘I need a website with a storefront,’ and start thinking about where you are already living,” says Black. “You are updating your Instagram, your Twitter, your Facebook every day. You make those the places that you connect with people, and where you should be transacting with them.”
Black says that while the team doesn’t want to release user numbers yet, sellers are in the “high tens of thousands.” So what about that other big social network? “We are definitely working toward controlling social commerce on the Web and keeping it in-stream,” Black says when asked about adding Facebook support. “We want to make sure people don’t have to click out or fill out forms. We’ll be updating more and more in the next months.”
Given Chirpify’s reliance on Twitter, questions about the platform’s API restrictions are natural despite its very un-Twitter-like function. “Anytime you build on someone else’s API, you’re taking a risk. We went to Twitter and people that worked there, told them what we were building, and they wanted to work together. So we’re on the good list,” says Black. “We continue to talk to them about our development and things like that, we’re building a closer relationship.” Of course, it’s always tricky trying to navigate Twitter’s next direction, and more than once it’s brought popular uses of its platform made by third parties in-house. Still, Black sounds confident about Chirpify’s place in the Twitter ecosystem.