We might need to pay to use some Twitter features in the future

A new report says the app is considering switching to a subscription-based model.

by Roisin Lanigan
10 February 2021, 11:01am

How many times have you seen that old adage on Twitter, usually posted under a particularly hilarious or galaxy brain tweet, reading “how is this site free?????”. Normally it’s something we chuckle at before quickly scrolling onto the next example of deranged, pandemic discourse we’re currently obsessed with, thinking it’s just a joke. But according to a new report, Twitter may indeed soon cost to use. 

Twitter is reportedly in the early stages of switching to a new subscription-based payment model, reports Bloomberg. The app, which currently has around 187 million daily users and relies primarily on advertising revenue, is exploring other options of generating profit, including charging users for access to ‘exclusive content’. Mysterious!

For now, most of the details of what that would look like remain closely guarded, but Bloomberg speculates that the new subscription-based Twitter could operate via a “tipping” system, similar to Spotify, Patreon or OnlyFans, or could include the monetisation of features which are currently free. Examples of those features floated include Tweetdeck (usually only used by brand accounts or social media managers), but also some more interesting features, such as an “undo send button” (though it’s unclear exactly what this means) or custom colours for Twitter profiles. The report also speculates whether subscriptions could provide users with an ad-free timeline, higher quality video, access to analytics and even the ability to pay for your own blue tick. 

“Increasing revenue durability is our top company objective,” Bruce Falck, Twitter’s Head of Revenue, told Bloomberg. “While we’re excited about this potential, it’s important to note we are still in very early exploration and we do not expect any meaningful revenue attributable to these opportunities in 2021.”

If implemented, introducing subscriptions to mainstream social media could mark an interesting change, essentially allowing our personal accounts to function similar to Netflix and Spotify. But monetising those same accounts could have unfortunate ramifications for accessibility. When visibility on social media -- even, as is suggested by Bloomberg, when it comes to some limited features -- is aligned closely with personal finances, it could mean that voices are silenced and the reach of the privileged is amplified. An “undo send” button, available only to those with the financial means to use it, could lead to a lack of accountability. 

On the other hand, if we’re literally paying to send our most inane thoughts out into the ether of the internet, perhaps it would make us all tweet mad shit a bit less. 

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