“The bird is freed”, Musk Tweet October 28th.
Elon Musk finally went through with his initial offer to buy Twitter for $44 billion and now owns the platform. Unsurprisingly, the billionaire is already imposing changes – none of which have gone well with the community.
Before the acquisition, Musk reportedly planned to lay off about 75% of the Twitter staff, which amounted to over 5000 employees. Staff is awaiting confirmation on these plans, but Musk immediately fired four top Twitter Executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal and COO Ned Segal.
But that’s just the internal turmoil – Musk also took no time off when it comes to angering users.
It was initially reported that in order to be Verified on Twitter (a system used to confirm that the account user is who they say they are and awards a blue checkmark beside their name) users would have to pay $20 a month – amounting to $240 a year.
At first, most thought this was a joke or a misunderstanding, but it turned out to be real. Afterward, many took to the platform to express their concerns.
The “Verified” system on Twitter has always been obtuse and opaque, with many users having to submit a request multiple times, often to continually get rejected for no apparent reason. Still, it’s a necessary system to prevent fake accounts from posting incorrect information, which is crucial for journalists, influencers, and more.
With the new system, simply subscribing would automatically grant the user a verified checkmark – meaning there’s no stopping anyone from using someone else’s name for trolling.
After a massive wave of dissatisfaction, Musk showed up to negotiate. Precisely, he replied to a tweet by Stephen King showing his discontent with the new plan: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8?”
Shortly after, he announced that the new $8 price tag was official.
Thus, to get verified on Twitter, you have to subscribe to Twitter Blue (a subscription service that already existed, but did not grant the verified checkmark).
He also added that subscribers to Blue would get extra benefits, such as “priority in replies, mentions & search, which is essential to defeat spam/scam, ability to post long video & audio, and half as many ads.” (Source: Twitter)
This was also not particularly well received. Users have compared this to a “pay-to-win” system in which non-paying users get completely buried in the algorithm.
And of course, the irony of Musk’s rebuttal hasn’t gone unnoticed – the world’s richest man implying that Twitter needs a way to pay the bills by charging users $20 a month is tone-deaf, to say the least. Granted, the price has been lowered by now, but the entire thing is leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths.
In fact, many are already looking for alternatives to Twitter, but the options are sorely limited. Tumblr is getting some attention, but curiously, it’s Twitter’s ex-CEO that may profit from the situation.
Jack Dorsey, the original creator of Twitter, is testing his new platform called Bluesky, supposedly a direct competitor to Twitter. Little is known about the platform yet, but after Musk took over Twitter, over 30K users have signed up for the Bluesky beta – which according to the official website is “launching soon”.
At the time of writing, Musk hasn’t gone back on any of these changes (save for lowering the price of Twitter Blue from $20 to $8) and has garnered a lot of skepticism over this new direction.