Analysis of how Twitter's blue check became worse than worthless

Originally published at: Analysis of how Twitter's blue check became worse than worthless | Boing Boing


Paying for Twitter Blue has also carries a distinct stink of being an Elon Musk Patreon, as it has always been clear that it was one way people to directly invest in the non-failure of his Twitter. The health of his image, and thus the image of wealth and power accumulation is now tied up in whether he tanks Twitter, it can’t be seen as anything other than a personal contribution to the continued myth of uber-libertairian, JoeRoganesque asshattery.


Again, the whole concept of this scheme indicates a profound, willful ignorance of what Twitter is and where it derives its (dubious) value.

Twitter is a platform where users create content for free and advertisers pay for access to the eyeballs drawn to that content.

Musk basically tried to reverse this business model by making users pay for access to an audience, while simultaneously removing one of the features that drew eyeballs to Twitter in the first place (i.e., the symbol that indicated content was really posted by the entity that they claimed to be).

It would be like if someone took over NASCAR made the drivers pay to participate while also removing the numbers from the cars that let spectators tell who was who. And also the track is falling apart and there isn’t any enforcement of the rules so the only reason to watch is to see a bunch of flaming wreckage.


which explains why Elon’s account has become the most watched account on the service… other than telling his engineers to make it so.


There’s another reason to watch NASCAR?


The suspense. It’s going to be so amazing when they finally turn right, like watching the ending of Zoolander in a mirror.


"Consistently deliver on promises to build customer trust. "

He’s pretty effectively doing the opposite - and making the information space of Twitter more chaotic and untrustworthy in general. If Elno had a goal - and I don’t think he does, I think he’s just an f’ing idiot - it would be to render Twitter worthless as someplace to get accurate information (or any information you could trust). Instead, that’s just a consequence he doesn’t care about.


For someone who is such a beneficiary of modern capitalism, he has a phenomenally rudimentary understanding of how it works. It’s like his understanding of economics never progressed past a 4th grade social studies class.

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He should understand. I’m sure this guy owns plenty of Veblen goods. I’m sure he’s sat in the VIP area of well-run nightclubs. I’m sure he’s been a member of Raya and similar sites.

My guess is that he’s so wrapped up in Randian myths of heroic engineer meritocracy that he truly believes that there’s nothing more underlying a premium price than technical excellence. It’s a puerile fantasy.

The reality is very different. It’s tricky to enough assign enough exclusivity to a commodity good to make it desirable enough to pay a premium for, even more so when a slightly lesser version of that good is available at no cost to any comer. Twitter was able to do that pre-Musk as the article lays out, but Galt Jr. managed to screw that up.


Better, because now anyone could be the Malaysian Prime Minister.


You know what he would say to that?



The article did have some good points. Mainly that Twitter Blue has actual utility (access to edit feature, etc…) but conflation with verification totally destroyed any credibility it had. Honestly I had no idea it was a feature-unlock, so it was a marketing failure on that front.

The emphasis on the framing of original blue-check verification as a “luxury good” is such a bizarre misreading and plays so heavily into the pro-musk talking point of mocking verified users as elitist whiners. It’s not wrong per se, and it fit her marketing argument, but it hand-waved away the public social good of verification a bit much for my taste and it made taking the rest of the article difficult with an open mind.

[ETA: more nuance…]


It was a luxury good, though, all the more so because old Twitter wasn’t charging for it. Features like edit were nice, but the real value was the ego boost and sense of security that came from Twitter saying “by our opaque process we’ve determined that this high-profile (and therefore deserving) user is who they say they are. Trust them and trust us.”

What Musk didn’t realise was that content from these special users also was the basis of the company’s engagement-based advertising business model. Suddenly asking them to pay for that “privilege” was rightly taken by Stephen King and others an insult.

If Twitter had always operated on a different model (e.g. tiered memberships, donations, not-for-profit) it might have been fine for Musk to raise the price of the blue check, but the users (including celebrities and brands) were already accustomed to not paying.


Another way to say this might be:

Celebrities were accustomed to being the product, but Musk tried to make them into the customers. They never wanted to be customers and would never have started using Twitter in the first place if that had been the model.


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