Pretend Elon Musk is the only human being in the world that is actually somehow politically and culturally neutral, and has successfully incorporated that neutrality into Twitter’s moderation. The current iteration of Twitter Blue would still be an incredibly stupid idea, made even moreso by the history and selling of the transition.
Let’s pretend there is no history of blue checks, and this is the first time a blue check is being introduced. For $8 you get to edit tweets, you get NFT avatars, you get long tweets, and you get juiced in the algorithm. The first three of those features seem like a nice way to show support for our platform, like the Lichess wings for patrons.
But the last part about giving a boost in the algorithm is going to be a disaster. People who would want to pay for this feature are those who want others to see their posts, but haven’t seen success organically. What’s that saying about how the person least deserving of power is the one that desires it? On the whole, the ones who most desire an audience are the ones who have the least interesting to say.
The result will be a feed full of people whose posts are bad and loud, with a mark indicating that their posts will be bad and loud. And with that, the feed (your primary product) will become a disaster zone of bad takes, with people blocking the $8 subscribers because their posts tend to be bad and loud.
And now add the fact that blue checks were previously only for the famous/notable–a culturally “elevated” rung of society that some posters have a strong resentment for, and who feel like the blue checks were used as a cultural cudgel. They want to enter that rung specifically for cultural battles, to even the playing field.
So congrats, you have a nice little contentious poster war on your hands polluting your main, advertisement-driven product. Advertisers hate it, free posters hate it, paid posters are defensive. Your product sucks and is making the whole site bad for everyone.
Of course one way to avoid that is to make your website’s revenue entirely subscription based and not advertising-based. But the more you drive off advertisers by driving off free users, the more checks are meaningless, priority is meaningless, because everyone is a blue check.
Ok, let’s remove the algorithm juicing and bring in the history–the fact that the blue check was only available to notable people before. The frustration was that this “identity verification” scheme to stop impersonators was only available to the famous and notable, and not ordinary people. Why not offer that to everyone for a price?
It’s this history that makes the transition still more stupid. I agree that everyone should have some form of verification. But one of Twitter’s main functions is as an RSS feed for the activities of the notable and an opportunity to interact with notable people. Blue checks helped differentiate between the real deal you’re probably looking for and people who just happen to have the same name. This was the logic, as I understand it–it helped the product be better for everyone, including us rabble, to have the blue checks exclusively for the notable.
But that means that by having Twitter Blue take the place of “celebrity” blue checks with “I paid $8” blue checks, it looks a lot like anyone who paid for Twitter Blue did so just to look notable. What’s more embarrassing than trying to pay money to seem cool? The product was made into an embarrassment by its history and how Elon sold it–a badge for the pathetic.
It’s too bad too, because an $8/mo service, viewed as a patronage, to verify your ID and maybe make the algorithm depend less on advertisement is something I’d consider a good thing. But by selling it through this “anti-elite” lens, and by making the site worse for everyone else, it is a complete disaster seemingly on all fronts.