The creator of Twitter already has introduced a world-shaking innovation. The question now is: Can he do it again?
Jack Dorsey unveiled his latest project, Square, earlier this month. The small gadget — which plugs into headphone jacks — turns some smart-phones into portable credit card readers. Just swipe the card through the Square and sign for the transaction using the touch-screen.
Square, with offices in New York, San Francisco and St. Louis, allows users to accept plastic payments with “no contracts, monthly fees or hidden costs.” Dorsey also has said the device will be free.
“We think this could be used by everyone, from a major retail store all the way down to selling your couch on Craigslist or getting paid back for the dinner you owe me,” Dorsey said last week during a demo of Square at Paris’ Le Web conference.
There could be many uses for Square: Small businesses, artists and even hot dog vendors could collect card payments; friends could lend or repay debts with their cards.
“It really is a potential game changer. ... If it gets adopted it can displace checks and cash,” said Ben Woolsey, an analyst at creditcards.com.
The company set March as a target to fully launch, but Square is in limited use in cities, including New York. The Manhattan clothing retailer Self Edge already has adopted the technology.
“It’s super-convenient because it sends e-mail receipts right to customers’ phones. It’s a really good tool,” said Andrew Chen, Self Edge’s co-owner.
Not everyone thinks Square is the next big thing.
David Rogers, executive director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School, downplayed Square in the new world of “mobile commerce,” in which phones — not cards — would be used for payment transactions.
“Twitter is pretty revolutionary, but I don’t think Square will disrupt behavior and be a game changer,” he said.