Social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, has started testing a new subscription method for new users in two countries, the company said on Tuesday.
The new model is dubbed “Not a Bot” under which new users in New Zealand and the Philippines will be charged a $1 USD annual fee for basic features. This includes features such as Liking and Bookmarking posts, Replying, Reporting, or Quoting other accounts.
New users who don’t get the paid subscription will only be able to take “read-only” actions, such as: Read posts, Watch videos, and Follow accounts.
X also said that the model was developed to combat bots and spammers while improving the user experience as a whole.
“This new test was developed to bolster our already successful efforts to reduce spam, manipulation of our platform, and bot activity, while balancing platform accessibility with the small fee amount. It is not a profit driver,” the company said.
New accounts in the two countries will also be required to verify their phone number. A move that has raised eyebrows amid privacy concerns. This can also be a step towards making X an “everything app” – an idea Elon Musk, the owner of X, has floated for a long time.
Musk was quick to tweet about the change, writing: “Read for free, but $1/year to write. It’s the only way to fight bots without blocking real users. This won’t stop bots completely, but it will be 1000X harder to manipulate the platform.”
“Not a Bot” is a beta program with varying fees from country to country based on the exchange rate. It remains unclear if, or when, the payment plan will be expanded to users in other countries.
Elon Musk first talked up the idea of a small monthly payment when he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month.
He said that bots cost “a fraction of a penny” to set up, but their effective cost on the platform is very high.
“A new payment method every time you have a new bot”, Musk told Netanyahu.
It should be noted that the program is different from X Premium, which offers users a blue verification tick with extra features like “undo” and “edit” for posts. The service is available for $8 USD a month to most users. However, the service has so far failed in curbing spam. If anything, the launch of a premium subscription turned out to be a mini disaster as several bots paid for verification badges.
Is X new subscription model a profit driver?
Ever since Elon Musk took over Twitter, the company has struggled for revenue sources. Many advertisers have ended their partnership with X due to concerns over hate speech and the loosening of content moderation efforts.
By Elon Musk’s own admission, ad revenue has since declined by over 50% and the company has struggled to break even. Elon Musk and his team need to make up for these losses and pay off a $13 billion debt acquired to buy Twitter.
It seems like this latest move is aimed at making up some of the losses incurred over the last year. Musk has since roped in former advertising executive Linda Yaccarino as CEO of X, however, it seems that the two of them are yet to agree on a coherent strategy to halt plummeting revenues. As Elon Musk talks up subscription-based models, Yaccarino seems focused on bringing back advertisers.
Launching “Not a Bot” means that X now has three different subscription plans on offer: the X Premium plan for roughly $8 to $11, and a $1,000 per month Verified Organizations plan that allows companies to verify their employee accounts.