Twitter occupies a strange place in the constellation of social media sites. On one hand, it’s not even the biggest platform you can use — that dubious honor goes to Facebook. On the other, it’s home to some of the most important public figures on the planet, such as industry leaders, celebrities and even the President of the United States himself.
That said, Twitter has been rightfully criticized for a number of unusual shortcomings, such as its lack of transparency on trends and algorithms. In fact, the recent site-wide hack exposed a bizarre back-end control panel that appears to show specific users can be removed from trends altogether. Tap or click here for more details on the hack heard ’round the world.
Between unusual back-end shenanigans and an infamous culture of trolls and harassment, there’s no doubt that Twitter has some work to do to reach its full potential. But a new proposal for the platform may end up changing it in unprecedented ways. Twitter is considering adding paid subscription options for users, and you might not have a choice but to participate.
A different kind of Twitter: Paywall considered
After a sizable downturn in ad revenue, Twitter is considering adding a paid subscription model to “complement” the existing free service on its platform. According to reports from CNN, job listings are already being posted by Twitter for a mysterious project codenamed “Gryphon,” which appears to relate to constructing new subscription services.
Following these reports, Twitter’s stock rose 4%, which shows investors are interested in new revenue options from one of the webs most popular platforms. As it stands, Twitter’s primary income stream comes from ad revenue, targeted ads and data collection.
Adding a subscription service would allow the company to collect money directly from users to further bolster its value. And following the recent string of high-profile hackings, the company needs all the value it can muster.
As of now, there are no hard details as to what the subscription service will include or exclude, but CEO Jack Dorsey emphasized that any subscription services would be available alongside the existing free services any user can access. He also mentioned that all of this development is in its earliest stages for the time being.
What would a subscription version of Twitter even look like?
Because there are no official details, any information on changes to Twitter are nothing more than pure speculation.
Still, it’s important to consider how adding a paywall can drastically reshape the platform as we know it. What services would free users be excluded from or potentially lose access to? How much would it all cost? What would encourage people to even consider paying for use?
One potential scenario could be a limitation for free users to interact with “Verified” Twitter accounts. This means that certain high-profile accounts could limit the people who follow them to paid subscribers, which would allow certain users to monetize their feeds. And Twitter, in control of the whole operation, could skim a portion of those subscription dollars.
Alternatively, Twitter could make it so users have to pay the platform directly in order to even see certain kinds of content. Were the monthly fees cheap enough, we could see this taking off, but they’d have to hit a sweet spot somewhere below the $5 range in order to keep the same amount of users.
Regardless of what shape Twitter takes when these changes are put into place, it could be argued that adding subscription fees of any kind could drastically reduce the number of trolls polluting people’s comments and mentions. Those users are among the least likely to pay, and would probably move to another platform before even thinking of signing up.
At the same time, paywalls could also have the isolating effect of dividing people into narrow discussion communities that grow insular and rigid over time. This can have a chilling effect on discourse and can lead to ideological conformity among in-group members.
As it stands, the only way to know for sure what happens is to see these ideas put to the test. We’ll be updating this story as more information comes in, as well as whether or not it’ll be worth your while to pay Twitter each month for content. After all, you could choose to put your money towards less hostile forms of entertainment.