How many of you still use Twi- I mean, X?
If you still use X, formerly known as Twitter, I have some bad news for you.
You may need to pay a subscription fee to comment and post in future.
X has already started charging new users in two countries $1 USD per year to use the platform.
New Users from New Zealand and the Philippines to Pay Subscription Fee
The news was announced in an unsigned post on X’s help centre on 17 October.
The subscription is part of a programme called “Not A Bot”.
The website states that the new subscription method “was developed to bolster our [X’s] already significant efforts to reduce spam, manipulation of our platform and bot activity.”
That’s not all.
New web users in New Zealand and the Philippines must verify their X accounts with a phone number.
Current users will not be affected by this change.
As of 17 October, new users from these two countries must pay $1.43 NZD per year and ₱42.51 PHP per year, respectively.
X has yet to explain why the $1 USD subscription only applies to new users joining via the web and not the app.
However, the terms and conditions of “Not A Bot” suggest that users may be able to subscribe to the programme from X’s iOS and Android apps.
Yet, X’s help centre only specifies the subscription being limited to X’s webpage.
It is also uncertain why “Not A Bot” is only currently rolled out in two countries.
Not that we’re complaining, of course.
Tech site The Verge has a theory.
X may have seen more bot activity from New Zealand and the Philippines compared to other places worldwide.
Another potential reason is that creating fake accounts via X’s website is much easier.
What if you rebel and opt out of subscribing to “Not A Bot?
Good news: You can still use X.
However, users who opt out of the plan can only create a read-only account.
It works exactly like the name suggests.
Users with read-only accounts would only be able to read posts, watch videos and follow other accounts.
This was confirmed by Elon Musk, the company’s chairman and CEO.
In a post on X, he clarified that users with read-only accounts can read for free.
However, they must pay $1 USD per year “to write”.
He added, “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.”
We don’t know where he got that statistic from, either.
The help centre post stated that testing this new feature would help “evaluate a potentially powerful measure to help us [X] combat bots and spammers on X while balancing platform accessibility with the small fee amount.”
Currently, X already charges users who subscribe to X Premium, which allows accounts to have the “verified” checkmark.
Battle Against Bots
At this point, Musk has made it clear that he hates bots.
Fortune reported that he would start charging new users a small subscription fee shortly before X’s official announcement.
Musk said erecting a paywall would be the key to ward off bots.
In September 2023, the Tesla CEO and the world’s richest person met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss technology.
The topic of adding a subscription fee came up.
Musk said, “We’re moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the system.”
He said that bot accounts cost “a fraction of a penny” to set up.
Thus, he felt that raising the cost of an account would deter bot operators from setting up accounts on X.
Musk stated, “Every time a bot creator wanted to make another bot, they would need another payment method.”
The X owner has a history of making impromptu and bizarre statements.
Thus, nobody knew if he was being serious.
Well, now we know.
Another Possible Reason for the Subscription Fee
Besides the bot problem, Musk had previously raised the prospect of a paywall in response to X’s decline in advertising, its primary source of income.
He noted that an advertiser boycott had caused revenue generated by advertisements to decline by 60%.
The boycott was instigated by concerns over his leadership and X’s management of inappropriate content.
However, based on Musk’s boasts about the increase in monthly users, the platform seems to be doing fine despite the decline in ad revenue.
He said that X had 550,000,000 monthly users generating up to 200,000,000 posts daily.
Notably, before Musk bought the business in October 2022, the platform’s user base was measured differently.
It was measured by monetisable daily active users, which stood at 238,000,000.