Elon Musk’s $8 blue ticks for all ‘verification’ program, his first major user-facing initiative since taking over the app, has caused a broad range of issues, including rampant impersonation, internal confusion over how to enforce the platform’s rules, potential legal concerns, and even stock market impacts for some impersonated businesses.
Which is largely in line with what everybody said would happen – even Twitter’s own staff, who informed Musk of potential concerns before the release.
But Musk pushed ahead anyway, before eventually agreeing to pause the roll-out, just a few days after launch, due to the aforementioned problems.
Twitter also added a new ‘official’ checkmark to combat impersonation, then removed it, then added it again. Which is pretty indicative of the current state of the app – and now, with a few revisions, Elon has set a new date for the re-launch of his $8 checkmarks program:
Punting relaunch of Blue Verified to November 29th to make sure that it is rock solid— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 15, 2022
Where the same problems will inevitably abound again, unless there’s a new process which includes, like, actual ID verification within the set-up, or maybe a different kind of checkmark to differentiate it from the current one, which is provided to notable, verified users in the app.
Thus far, it doesn’t seem like either of these elements are under consideration for Musk’s ‘great leveler’ program.
Musk views Twitter’s blue checkmarks as some kind of status marker, which separates the ‘haves’ from ‘have nots’ in the app. And while I’m not sure that anyone else sees them that way, Musk seems to believe that, because of this, he’ll eventually be able to convince millions of users to pay $96 per year for a badge in the app, which will then enable him to move to the next phase of the plan, in cracking down on bot profiles - because with so many people signing up, the only ones without a blue checkmark will, eventually, all be bots.
Even though there’s no chance, based on its current construction, that this, conceptually, is going work.
Because millions of people aren’t going to sign-up to pay $8 per month for a tiny graphic next to their name, which will mean nothing at all once everyone can buy one.
Sure, some people will pay. Fans of Elon, those who’ve always wanted a blue checkmark – there’s a percentage of Twitter users who clearly will pay $8 for the blue tick. Indeed, according to reports, 140,000 Twitter users signed up for the program in those initial days that it was available, which is more than the amount of users who signed up for Twitter Blue (100k), the platform’s initial subscription offering.
That shows promise, right? 140k sign-ups in a couple of days. That shows that Elon’s likely onto a winner. Right?
The thing is, 140k equates to 0.06% of Twitter’s total userbase. That’s still a lot in just a few days, but it’s nowhere near the amount that Elon would need in order to facilitate that next stage, in using this as a way to identify bot profiles versus real people via checkmarks in the app.
It’s also not enough to meet Elon’s plan to make subscriptions 50% of Twitter’s revenue intake.
Twitter brought in $1.18b in revenue in Q2, meaning that Elon needs to make at least $590 million from subscriptions, per quarter, to reach his target. That equates to around 24.6 million paying subscribers signed up to his $8 verification plan. Which is a lot – again, the original Twitter Blue only ever had 100k sign-ups, and while 140k new subscribers in just a few days, in limited release, seems positive, he essentially needs 175x that to even reach his 50% revenue benchmark.
And for it to work as a marker of bots vs humans, it’s way higher than that figure again. You would assume that Musk would need something like 75% of Twitter users (178m), or potentially more, to sign on in order for this to be a clear indicator of real people versus fakes.
I seriously doubt that 178 million people are going to pay to use the app, when they could just use any other social app, for free.
But then again, maybe Elon has new elements that’ll be revealed which sweeten the deal - while he has also threatened to reduce the reach of non-paying Twitter users as a means of forcing people to pay up.
But the majority of Twitter users don’t ever tweet anyway, so that probably won’t work either. But again, it’s impossible to judge till we see what comes next, and what refinements Twitter’s looking to make before re-release.
Though there is this:
With new release, changing your verified name will cause loss of checkmark until name is confirmed by Twitter to meet Terms of Service— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 15, 2022
As a reminder, Twitter blocked all verified users from changing their name last week in response to many people changing their username to mock Musk specifically, along with other brands and celebrities.
Now, as a measure to combat impersonation, Twitter will implement a process to check altered usernames before letting you go ahead. Which is a good move that should address at least some of the recent impersonation issues – though who, exactly, is going to be checking and approving such is also interesting, given that Elon has sacked the majority of Twitter staff and contractors.
In summary, I still don’t think that Elon’s $8 checkmark program is the right way to go, and I don’t think anyone at Twitter thinks it is either. But Elon’s also made big announcements and proclamations around the offering - I don’t see him backing away from it now.
Which means that Twitter’s verification system will likely cause more chaos in a few weeks - but till then, we’ll have to hold ourselves over with Musk’s random public attacks on staffers and self-praise, as he learns the ropes at the app.