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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Nearly every major social platform has recently introduced some form of tipping, allowing users to directly support their favorite personalities in real time.

Why it matters: Creators have been fueling engagement on social media platforms for years, but only now that the creator economy is maturing are they actually able to make money directly from their fans.

Driving the news:

  • Twitter is working on adding a “Tip Jar” feature within @TwitterSpaces and on users’ main profiles, software engineer Jane Manchun Wong discovered this week. This is in addition to its new "Super Follows" feature, which allows users to charge followers for special content.
  • Clubhouse launched a payments feature at the start of the month to help audio creators generate revenue from the platform. 
  • Facebook said in March it would expand its “Stars” virtual currency, which lets fans reward video and game creators directly for their content.
  • Instagram late last year launched "Badges," a virtual gift that users can buy during livestreams to show their support for the creator in real time.
  • YouTube has been experimenting with various tipping features including “applause,” and “Super Chats” for years.

Behind the trend: The popularity and availability of payment platforms such as Venmo, CashApp and Stripe are making it easier for tech companies to enable peer-to-peer payments on their platforms. 

Be smart: Gamers and adult entertainment platforms have been ahead of this trend for years.

  • Twitch and Caffeine have long used tip-like features to drive engagement between gamers and their fans.
  • OnlyFans has exploded in popularity over the past year, in large part due to the fact that its direct payment features has created a viable income stream for many of its creators.

The big picture: For creators, getting money from users directly is critical because platforms are not financially incentivized to pay out most people directly.

  • Attempts at social media networks that pay people for their content have struggled to gain traction in the past.
  • While most of the Big Tech giants have launched creator funds in the past few months, those opportunities are still limited to the most viral performers, not smaller or niche creators.

Our thought bubble: Digital tipping will differ fundamentally from tipping in the real-world services industry, like bartending or taxi cab driving, because digital tipping often accounts for the entire livelihood of online creators.

What to watch: Following in the social media giants' footsteps, music giants are now also getting in on the trend, which is significant given that musicians have for years struggled to make money directly from fans.

  • SoundCloud is planning to introduce a direct payments between fans and artists through its platform, per Billboard.
  • Spotify in August rolled out a new feature that allows fans to pay musicians directly.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
6 mins ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. students fell 4 to 5 months behind during pandemic

An empty classroom in Pinole, Calif. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Elementary school students in the U.S. ended the school year four to five months behind their expected level of academic achievement, according to a new report.

Why it matters: Months of school closures and often inferior remote education eroded what schoolchildren would have learned since the pandemic began, and caused some to go backwards.

Updated 9 mins ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

🚨: Simone Biles pulls out of gymnastics team finals citing her mental health

🏄‍♀️: American Carissa Moore wins first-ever women's Olympic gold in surfing

🎾: Naomi Osaka eliminated from Olympic tennis tournament

⚽️: USA women's soccer ties Australia, propelling them to the quarterfinals

🏉: USA men's rugby knocked out after blowing 21-0 lead to Great Britain

🏊‍♀️: Teen swimmer Lydia Jacoby wins first U.S. women's Tokyo Games gold

👟: World Athletics president supports reviewing marijuana rules in doping

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage - Medal tracker

CDC: Vaccinated people in COVID hotspots should resume wearing masks

CDC director Rochelle Walensky and top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci at a Senate HELP committee hearing. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance on Tuesday recommending that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor, public settings if they are in parts of the U.S. with substantial to high transmission, among other circumstances.

Why it matters: The guidance, a reversal from recommendations made two months ago, comes as the Delta variant continues to drive up case rates across the country. Millions of people in the U.S. — either by choice or who are ineligible — remain unvaccinated and at risk of serious infection.

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