More X subscription tiers could spell doom for free access as biz bleeds cash

One's cheaper but with ads, the other's more expensive with no ads, says Musk

X is launching two tiers of premium subscriptions, according to owner and CTO Elon Musk, but details are still scant.

Musk's $44 billion takeover turned Twitter upside down, negating the verified user system to grant anyone who paid $8 a month a once-coveted blue tick.

The alleged benefits of the system include prioritized rankings in conversations and search, more posts between ads, more formatting options, improved video uploads, 25,000-character posts, and the ability to edit.

This doesn't seem to have done the trick, however. Not only did users resent paying for features they in some cases once had for free, but the perks don't add much by way of value.

To make matters worse, advertisers balked at Twitter changing hands and the drama surrounding one of the most chaotic tech acquisitions to date.

Each month since Musk took the helm in late 2022, year-on-year revenue has been down, from -12 percent at its best in October that year to -78 percent at its worse in December. The trend does appear to be reversing.

In the face of revenue dropping by more than 50 percent, the business is looking to squeeze its most vociferous users.

Announcing the change this morning, Musk explained that one of these added subscription tiers would be "lower cost with all features, but no reduction in ads," and the other would be "more expensive, but has no ads."

But the exposition ended there. No mention of a free tier or how the microblogging platform would function going forward for the millions of people who have never paid a cent to read or post to the website.

Earlier this week X said it was trialing an annual $1 subscription in the Philippines and New Zealand aimed at tackling bot accounts. The fee is optional, but new accounts that do not pay will be limited to a read-only version of the app.

Whether there is some bleed-through between this policy and Musk's announcement is unclear, and anything the mercurial billionaire says is subject to change, but it looks like free access to Twitter's twisted offspring could be coming to a permanent end.

We asked X to comment but the business has not responded to press inquiries for more than a year. Well, unless you count the poop emoji as a response.

And yes, there are alternatives. Mastodon continues to be popular with certain communities, but its distributed nature and "fediverses" appear to represent a needless barrier to entry for those more familiar with Twitter.

Otherwise there is the currently more exclusive Bluesky, which is another decentralized take on the microblogging concept. Because the platform is still in a testing phase, access to the app requires an invitation.

Meta launched a Twitter-inspired service called Threads in July, but it is heavy on farming personal data, which is why it is not available in the EU. Usage numbers are also crashing and burning.

There is yet one more option. You could just... not bother. Not everyone feels the need to shout about themselves on the internet after all. Right? ®

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