X owner Elon Musk said last month that the platform formerly known as Twitter would probably introduce a subscription fee for all of its users.
In the last few days, the story has taken a further twist after Bloomberg reported that the company is testing three subscription tiers, with those paying the most seeing the fewest number of adverts.
Sources claiming to have knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg that the changes could see the current Premium tier, which starts at $8 a month, be divided into Basic, Standard, and Plus tiers.
According to other recent leaks, the Basic tier will show the usual number of ads, the Standard tier will show half as many ads, and the top-level Plus tier will be free of ads. At the current time, the Premium tier shows about half the number of ads that appear on the free tier.
Price plans for the three paid tiers aren’t currently known.
Under this setup, it’s also not clear if a free tier would remain, and if it did, whether it would show even more ads than it does now. One concern is that making X subscription-only could drive millions of casual users away from the platform, so it’s possible that X will retain its free tier while at the same time offering a low-cost Basic tier with a few perks to encourage sign-ups.
Musk said in mid-September that the platform is “moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the X system,” suggesting that it’s the only way it would be able to effectively deal with the “vast armies of bots” plaguing the social media site. Content from the more malevolent bots can swamp DM inboxes and replies with spam, hateful material, or content designed to influence elections.
The idea is that bringing in fees for all accounts would make it costlier for bot operators to set up fake accounts and that the hassle of setting up a new payment method for each one would also help to fight against the practice. In that case, it’s hard to see how a free tier can remain.
Musk will also be hoping that subscriptions for all would help to increase X’s bottom line while it continues to work to encourage advertisers to return to the platform after many left following Musk’s acquisition of the company in a $44 billion deal that closed 12 months ago.
X has offered no official word on its possible new subscription tiers, but recent reports and leaks suggest that something is in the works. We’ll be sure to update if anything changes.
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