The best way to explain Blippy is to imagine what it would be like if your credit card had its own Twitter account. Everything you spend is posted online to your Blippy feed, which is open to public scrutiny.
The founders of Blippy, one of whom spoke about the service at the recent TED2010 conference, hope that its widespread adoption will encourage people to be more open about their spending, and that being able to see what other consumers are paying will make people more finance-savvy.
It's an intriguing idea, but getting the full Blippy experience requires handing over your essential credit-card information. This is an idea that'll leave many people recoiling in abject horror, but you can limit who sees your transactions and the service has an extensive privacy and security policy.
That's where we come in. Yes, throwing privacy concerns out the window with gay abandon, we've handed all our personal, intimate information over to Blippy, in service of bringing you an inside look at the Blipperverse. Read on to find out what Blippy is all about, how well it works, and whether the concept of privacy has any future...
Update, 26 April 2010: The credit-card numbers of four Blippy users were indexed by Google, it was recently reported. Blippy briefly revealed the data during maintenance, and Google subsequently failed to remove the data from search results. Tom Krazit has the full story at CNET News.
Joining Blippy is just like joining Twitter -- think up a username and password, assign an email address to your account, and you're away. Your profile will be set to public by default, but you can set it to private should you wish. You can also link your existing Twitter or Facebook login to Blippy, should you want to let your friends see what a cheapskate you are.
Next you'll be prompted to link up some finance. Blippy has links with a number of services, including Amazon, Netflix and eBay. As this reporter is hopelessly addicted to the App Store, we figured iTunes would be the quickest way of getting some transactions up on the feed.
Next step: Adding a credit card...
This is the frightening bit -- you'll need to enter all the information you'd normally give when signing into online banking. Passwords, secret numbers, maiden names -- Blippy needs it all.
Blippy does in fact seem pretty safe, security-wise. A worry, however, is that should your identity be stolen through other means, your bank may not be very sympathetic if they see you've been giving out your information to third-party Web sites.
Here's a snapshot of our feed -- integrating both our iTunes and card transactions, with purchases appearing in chronological order. Naturally we're delighted that spending 59p on an app called CatPaint (which is just as good as it sounds) is now a matter of public record.
Blippy excels when it comes to encouraging chat -- updates and transactions from people you follow will appear in your feed, and everyone has the opportunity to comment on each post. Users are invited to comment on their own posts, which leads to interesting (and often funny) conversations such as the ones seen here.
Blippy users (bleepers?) can view popular purchases from around the Blipperverse -- a useful tool if you're looking to track trending items. As for Blippy's long-term financial future, we can see companies paying big cash money for the spending data that's pumped through Blippy's servers.
Ultimately Blippy's success will depend on whether people feel comfortable putting their spending information online. Even though Blippy lets you hide any transactions you'd rather not let people see, getting the most out of it will require total commitment. Much like Twitter, if you have no problem with making your life totally open and honest, you're likely to find Blippy interesting, and you'll doubtless get an engaging social experience.
If you're desperately clinging to whatever privacy you still have left, it goes without saying that Blippy is not for you.