Mike Isaac

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Email Money to Friends With Square Cash (But Only if You Work for Twitter, Pinterest or Box)

Square_CashLooks like Square isn’t trying to kill cash entirely — just the greenback.

The payments company is in the midst of slowly, quietly rolling out a new product — dubbed Square Cash, natch — a way to send money to folks you know (and perhaps those you don’t) over email.

The concept is fairly straightforward, according to the site’s FAQ: Draft an email to the person you want to send cash to and CC a Square-designated email as well. Stick the dollar amount of how much money you want to send in the subject line and click the send button. Your friend will receive the “cash” after they link their debit card accounts to Square, and you, the sender, are charged a flat 50 cent fee.

While the site’s landing page is slick and the concept is cool enough, Square isn’t exactly re-inventing the wheel here. You can still send folks money using a PayPal account (and not incur a fee for it if you send it as a “gift”!), and Google’s commerce wing just added a money attachment feature to Gmail as well. And there’s no shortage of startups — Venmo, Stripe and more — doing similar things in micro-payments.

But I don’t think it’s necessarily a zero-sum game. The idea for Square here, methinks, is growth: Ultimately, this could be a faster way of getting more people to link up their checking accounts to Square’s service — especially those who either aren’t a small business using the product, or haven’t discovered the magic that is using Square’s special dongle, attachable to phones, tablets and the like. And I’d say there’s no better incentive to link your debit card account up to a service than an email notification in your inbox saying you’ve got twenty bucks waiting to be redeemed.

And of course, it plays well into Square’s social schtick. It’s a social payments startup, Square would say, not just some boring e-commerce company.

Want to sign up? Not so fast: You can’t use it quite yet, as right now only a select few are in on the invite-only testing period. For now, I’ve confirmed that employees at Pinterest, Box.com and Twitter are currently the only ones in this round of invites.

“We’re excited to share Square Cash with our friends. We’ll continue to invite others to try it out in the coming weeks,” a Square spokesperson told AllThingsD.

For now, you’ll have to stick to the kind of cash that folds.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work