from the no-thank-you dept
You will recall that, last month, Elon Musk mentioned in passing that he’d decided the only way to stop bots and spam on Twitter (which he’d already claimed to have stopped a few times earlier) was to paywall the entire site with “a small monthly payment for use of the X system.” This statement apparently caught CEO-in-name-only Linda Yaccarino entirely by surprise, as she seemed unaware of the issue when asked about it live on stage a couple weeks later.
Last night, Fortune’s Kylie Robison has broke the news that the plan is to charge new users $1/year in order to access the basic features of exTwitter:
X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, will begin charging new users $1 a year to access key features including the ability to tweet, reply, quote, repost, like, bookmark, and create list, according to a source familiar with the matter
X owner Elon Musk has long floated the idea of charging users $1 for the platform. During a recent livestreamed conversation with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month, Musk said “It’s the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots.”
Soon after her article came out, exTwitter “Support” tweeted a confirmation, officially naming this new paywall “Not A Bot” and saying that it’s already being tested in New Zealand and the Philippines.
The webpage detailing the new program says that when new users sign up in those two countries, they’ll be given options for what “Subscription Plan” they want, and if you don’t pay up, you’ll be read only.
So, as fees go, $1/year is obviously not much at all. But, um, if you’re a spammer, and you still want to spam, would $1/year be much of a deterrent? But it does seem likely to deter more casual users who just want to try exTwitter. Which means that it will most likely slow down user growth without doing much to stop spam.
And that’s the fundamental problem here. There’s no way to charge users in a manner that it’s more worthwhile for users to pay than for spammers. The most problematic spammers are doing it for the money. And as long as they can make more than $1/year it’s still going to be worth it to them. Perhaps it’s stops a total flood of purely nonsense spam trolls, but… it seems highly unlikely to stop the actual worst of the spammers.
But, it does seem like the kind of friction that is pretty likely to kill off more casual usage, which the site relies on to grow.
And while perhaps it’s not a huge deal if it really is only going to be for “new” users (so long as you believe the site is fine with the users it currently has), how long does anyone really believe that’s going to last? If Musk remains hard up for cash at exTwitter, you have to expect that the fee will be expanded to everyone over time. As for testing it in just those two countries, I’m sure people in those countries can figure out how to proxy or VPN their way around the geogating. Which means, whatever “results” they have of this test are not going to be all that interesting.
These are, of course, all ideas that many people in the space could tell Elon, if he hadn’t fired/banished/ignored all the experts over the past year, leading to him reinventing every mistake from “first principles.”