Less than 24 hours after it launched, Elon Musk has killed Twitter’s new “Official” checkmark, the billionaire’s first major change to Twitter since taking over the site in a $44 billion forced sale last month.
On the morning of November 9, some Twitter accounts awoke to find they had a small check mark added to their account. It sat below their screen name with its blue check and the handle. It was a clear version of the blue checkmark and the word “official.”
Esther Crawford, an early stage product manager at Twitter, attempted to explain what was going on as the feature ahead of its roll out. “A lot of folks have asked about how you’ll be able to distinguish between @TwitterBlue subscribers with blue checkmarks and accounts that are verified as official, which is why we’re introducing the “Official” label to select accounts when we launch,” she said in a tweet.
Musk has said he’s determined to turn Twitter into a profitable enterprise. Part of that plan is charging $8 for a blue checkmark. Originally the blue checkmark was given out to users who’d been verified as real people by Twitter. It was meant to convey legitimacy to the account, a mark that the person running the account was who they claimed to be. Governments, journalists, politicians, and celebrities have all been given blue verification badges. The process of acquiring one has changed over the years, but it involved some version of the person behind the account meeting the requirements to prove their identity to Twitter.
Now Musk wants to give away legitimacy at $8 a pop. To distinguish “official” accounts from people who’d just purchased the blue check, Twitter rolled out this new tag. It was a confusing morning as some news outlets got the official tag, and while many streamers and digital celebrities received “official” status, journalists did not.
But now, apparently, it’s over. Musk ended the “official” badge in a tweet
“I just killed it,” he said in response to Marques Brownlee, an ultimate frisbee player and video producer, pointing out that he’d had the “official” mark and that it was now gone. “Blue check will be the great leveler.”
It’s another sign of chaos at Twitter, which has been hammering the stock price of Musk’s only other publicly-traded company, Tesla, as investors lose confidence in his decision-making. The interest on the debt he took on to buy the company is $1 billion a year and he needs to force Twitter to make money fast to cover it. He’s floated different ideas about paying for the blue check, first suggesting it would cost $20 before landing on $8 after being called out by Stephen King. Advertisers have fled while Musk blocks them on Twitter for asking questions. He fired roughly half the staff then turned around and asked for some of them to come back, giving them an hour deadline to make the choice.
It’s anybody’s guess as to what will happen next; the “official” badge was a short-lived attempt to solve the problem that blue verification badges were meant to address in the first place, but now will be unable to fulfill as a pay-for-play offering. One thing is for sure: The chaos will continue as long as Musk is in charge.
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