Twitter's bird logo disguised as one of the popular CryptoPunk NFTs (edit by Valentina Di Liscia for Hyperallergic)

Twitter and NFTs are longtime bedfellows. Ever since non-fungible tokens burst on the scene, artists have used the social media platform to share their creations and crypto collectors to boast their latest acquisitions. Twitter has also become the go-to soapbox for critics of the new technology, who have voiced concerns over the environmental impact of NFTs, digital plagiarism, and other grievances, all in 280 characters or less.

This week, crypto and Twitter officially consummated their union with a new feature that allows paid users on the site to set up an NFT profile picture. The concept itself isn’t new: NFT owners frequently use their unique digital assets as profile pics, particularly those of the avatar variety (see, for example, TV host and comedian Jimmy Fallon’s Bored Ape gazing out disinterestedly at us from his Twitter page.) But now, users can actually connect their crypto wallets to their Twitter account, and any NFT they choose to display in their profile will appear in a special hexagon shape that distinguishes it from the circular icon reserved for non-blockchain-based images.

The company announced the rollout with a zany promotional video oddly reminiscent of 1990s Gushers candy commercials in which real-life Twitter users’ heads are replaced by well-known NFT avatars.

A sort of upgrade of the blue “Verified” badge for today’s crypto-crazed, the hex-shaped profile picture shows off not just a user’s digital assets but also their real-world wealth by announcing, for instance, that their pricey CryptoPunk is the real deal. Clicking on the icon pulls up a detail page listing the connected wallet’s address on the blockchain, where past and current transactions and holdings are publicly recorded, so anyone can peruse that user’s entire NFT collection.

The new feature is only available to iOS device users with a “Twitter Blue” subscription, a premium service that provides access to customizing options for $2.99 a month. (Launched last year, the subscription offers perks such as an “Undo Tweet” button.) And there are some technical limitations: So far, Twitter only supports static image NFTs (JPEGs and PNGs) minted on Ethereum, excluding blockchains that operate on the more environmentally sustainable “Proof of Stake” consensus mechanism, like Cardano or Tezos.

Twitter’s NFT authentication system is powered by OpenSea, the world’s largest NFT marketplace, which said in a tweet yesterday that the integration “allows you to verify ownership seamlessly.” Not everyone is convinced of those claims, however. One NFT collector suggested that the feature leaves room for so-called “right-clicking — saving an image as a file, minting it as an NFT, and then uploading it as a profile picture without actually owning the artwork. Twitter’s Head of Consumer Product Marketing, Justin Taylor, replied that “anyone SHOULD be able to mint anything and make it their nft” and added that “verified” collections are marked as such on the pop-up detail page, though not on the profile picture itself.

But “that’s not good enough,” Twitter user @HellermanAdam responded. “Part of what makes this feature important to #NFTs is the ability to prove ownership at a glance,” he responded. “You’ve created a system that still allows people to right-click-save & benefit.”

The move has been received by the public with the vehement polarization now expected of any innovation in the crypto sphere — derided by some as yet another layer of exclusivity that extolls the crypto-rich, and celebrated by others as a step in the right direction. Perhaps anticipating the backlash, Twitter simultaneously rolled out a separate function: You can now mute any users who use the new NFT avatar integration. BRB, checking my settings.

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Valentina Di Liscia

Valentina Di Liscia is Co-Editor of News at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...