Elon Musk wants Twitter users to pay to complain about Twitter. In recent days, one of the most repeated tweets from him is a variant of “$8″ when someone complains about the network, the $8 that Musk has set as the pay rate. It is a figure that goes far beyond a price, it aims to be a profound change in Twitter as we know it until now. Even more so when this Tuesday it was known that within the company they are debating whether to put the entire network behind a paywall. For now, it’s just speculation.
The evolution of subscription details has been rapid. The first days after the purchase of Twitter, the payment was linked only to those verified. Those verified are a legacy of the original Twitter, where before celebrities entered there were those who replaced them as a parody or game. This is why Donald Trump’s Twitter account was @realDonaldTrump. Other networks also have this figure of “verified” users. But what at first was a necessity, later became a sign of status: verified was equal to important, to people someone had an interest in personifying.
On Twitter there are about 400,000 verified accounts. The belief that all Musk would do is make them pay for their “status token” created the first wave of complaints. But this weekend, Musk himself spoke at an investor conference in New York and clarified what he had insinuated in tweets, but which was now transparent: the payment serves to authenticate you as a human being, not as a celebrity. The goal of the newcheck blue” is not status, it is humanity.
Prioritized or sunk
“If you get verified by payment you will be prioritized,” Musk said. “If we get enough paid verified subscribers, we will prioritize searches, replies, and mentions with verified users first. The advantage of this is to ensure that crime does not pay. Now creating a bot on Twitter costs less than a penny,” he added.
Musk mentioned page 8 of Google’s results as an apparent comparison to future unverified users: “This is like Google. If you go to page 8 or 9 there will be a lot of scams and scams. The fact is that Google results on page 1 are so good, you never go to page 8. The bad stuff gets pushed to the bottom,” he said.
The great absence of these Musk phrases is the chronology itself: unverified users will go down in answers, mentions and searches. But on the main page? It is logical to think that of course they will be gelded, but confirming it at the moment seems too strong a statement. The French government spokesman, Olivier Veran, has already said that he does not intend to give those 8 dollars for his accounts, what happens if singers, journalists and politicians do not pay? Aren’t they going out in the timeline who follow them? He looks like he does. But below people with hundreds of thousands of followers.
What implications does all this have? The main problem with this bet is how many subscribers Twitter will have. That is why Musk puts his phrase in conditional: “If we get enough verified subscribers via payment.” At the moment, according to internal company documents obtained by TheVerge, with Musk active users are up 15 million, to 255, as Musk himself later tweeted. The profits would already be substantial even if less than half of all of them paid, but it wouldn’t be profitable if only less than 10% checkout. The precursor to the new Twitter subscription is Twitter Blue, launched this year in the US with fewer perks, and has 100,000 subscribers.
Although Musk’s basic idea is that if you want to continue using an improved version of Twitter you must pay, the subscription has other advantages (although some will be carried over from Twitter Blue): see a summary of the most shared tweets by your followers, be able to edit tweets or be able to post videos of up to 42 minutes. Later, the option to share that income with content creators, such as YouTube, will be offered.
FWIW, I was always a fan of an idea we called “Commercial Accounts” internally—which was to charge businesses for Twitter use. Features would include verification, stats, and profile customization. Someone smart put this deck together in Q209 but…priorities. pic.twitter.com/6wkWdckcs0
—Ev (@ev) November 1, 2022
The idea of subscriptions is neither sudden nor new. Twitter may even offer several subscription options depending on the type of account. Back in 2009, according to one of the co-founders, Ev Williams, Twitter prepared a presentation on how companies could pay. Over the years, seeing that advertisers weren’t paying enough money and believing the cultural importance of the web for news and information, he settled as actual option. It is also the only text-centric network today; its incomparable place at the center of global ideas makes it unique. But enough to pay?
There is another problem with the payment. In his talk, Musk talks about the problem of “spam, bots and trolls”. The first two, who spread unwanted content, won’t want to pay $8 a month to flood the web with crap. But maybe it is a help for trolls, users who intend to generate noise, confusion or discomfort? A trolling typical on Twitter is to appear first in the responses to celebrity tweets. With payment verification, there will be less competition.
The most widespread question on Twitter is whether Musk knows what he is doing or is just thinking as he speaks. A little improvisational test is that, suddenly, the Birdwatch tool, being tested in the US, has suddenly become indispensable for Twitter to become an indispensable source of global information. For Musk, journalists are more of a hindrance than a requirement for getting good information.
Birdwatch, which for Musk will be called “community notes” (which is a name that Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, seems wrong), is a system that allows verified Twitter users to vote on comments to tweets. They are footnotes that give context to a politician’s tweet, for example. If a comment gets upvotes from users of different ideologies, it will be published. It’s easy to imagine political battles erupting in those comments, but ideally they could bring the kind of insight into the Twitter that Musk dreams of.
Musk has publicly complained about the lack of support he receives from advertising companies. Right now, advertising is 89% of Twitter’s revenue. Musk believes that his influence is excessive and disproportionate, especially at times like the present, when some boycott threats are trying to make him change his plans. An argument in favor of the subscription model is that advertisers would have less weight, as happens with the media.
Musk is going to try other changes, but the subscription is perhaps his biggest bet; one that can sink or revitalize the network. The lack of an immediate alternative, the taste for text and the impact it has on generations that have used it to inform themselves, fight and celebrate (and who have little desire to try other platforms), can promote its success.
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What does it mean that Twitter becomes subscription