One of Elon Musk’s key strategies to bring millions of dollars of revenue into Twitter has hit a major roadblock.
On Monday night (US time), Mr Musk tweeted that he was “holding off” on the reinstatement of the controversial Twitter Blue subscription service.
That announcement came amid advertisers desert Twitter following uncertainty at the new owner’s plans for the social media firm. Advertising makes up 90 per cent of Twitter’s current revenue.
Revamped and relaunched shortly after his takeover of the company, Twitter Blue allowed users to add a blue check mark next to their profile – previously used only to verify the identity of notable people or organisations – for $12 ($US8) a month.
Mr Musk said allowing people to buy blue ticks would be a “great leveller”.
However, as many predicted, when the new Twitter Blue went active, nefarious users began impersonating people and organisations who had the verified tick.
The new Twitter Blue was pulled after a chaotic few days.
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Twitter Blue relaunch delayed
“Holding off relaunch of Blue Verified until there is high confidence of stopping impersonation,” Mr Musk said.
“Will probably use different colour check for organisations than individuals.”
After halting Twitter Blue, Mr Musk originally announced the purchasable blue check marks would be back by around by November 18.
That deadline has also now slipped.
He gave no indication on Monday of when Twitter Blue might be back.
As reported by The New York Times, around 140,000 people, out of 238 million users, subscribed to the new Twitter Blue before it was pulled.
That would have equalled about $1.7 million ($US1.12 million) in revenue. In reality the income would have been less than that as some people would have already been paying $US5 for the previous iteration of the subscription service which didn’t include a blue tick.
Website Mashable said in a “best case scenario” it was hoped that Twitter Blue could be part of plan to bring in around $132 million ($US88 million) of income to Twitter annually.
But a string of high-profile incidents led the product to be withdrawn.
An account mimicking pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and sporting a blue tick announced insulin medicine would now be free. That sent the company’s stock temporarily tumbling before it was clear the tweet was from an impostor.
Game-maker Nintendo was also impersonated, as was Elon Musk himself by comedian Kathy Griffin.
The company is trying to figure out how to both indicate to users that an account is official – from the person or organisation it purports to be – while also allowing people to add the sought-after blue mark to their profiles.
As Mr Musk indicated, various coloured marks may now be used to differentiate accounts.
But a major sticking point is whether forking out $12 for a blue tick will be desirable to users if all it indicates is that the user has paid Mr Musk $12.
Musk telling staff things they already know
Technology website Platformer has also reported that Mr Musk has been spending part of his time at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters telling the remaining staff things they already know.
“During one Sunday meeting, Musk explained the concept of native advertising to the team, according to one person who was there, despite the fact that the employees were already well aware of the format,” the website stated.
Native advertising is adverts that are more integrated into a platform’s content such as articles, videos and, in Twitter’s case, tweets.
“(Mr Musk) said that the company’s ads should ‘look like tweets,’ one employee said, despite the fact that the company’s ads already are tweets.”