Look, I get that X needs to expand its income streams, and I understand the logic behind charging for different elements, in the hopes of both combating bot peddlers and bringing in more money.
But some of the price points that Elon and Co. have come up with are… well, they’re at the higher end, to say the least.
Today, Forbes has reported that X is putting together a new program to sell dormant X @handles, with a starting price of $50k.
Yes, fifty thousand dollars for the handle of your choice.
As per Forbes:
“Emails reveal that a team within the company, known as the @Handle Team, has begun work on a handle marketplace for the purchase of account names left unused by the people who originally registered them. In at least some cases, X/Twitter has emailed solicitations to potential buyers requesting a flat fee of $50,000 to initiate a purchase.”
Which seems like a lot, putting these handles beyond the reach of almost anybody but big-name brands.
But maybe, if some of them bite, I guess it’s worth a shot?
X owner Elon Musk has been discussing options for dormant handles since he took over at the company late last year, noting last December that X would be looking to make these usernames available for new use.
Twitter will soon start freeing the name space of 1.5 billion accounts
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2022
Back in January, The New York Times reported that X had considered an auction system to sell off the most popular usernames. But it’s since been pretty quiet on the @handle sales front, with X seemingly moving on from the idea.
Evidently, that wasn’t the case, with X simply taking the time to formulate the structure of this new process, which now looks set to move to the next stage, with X selling usernames to the highest bidder.
Which will no doubt upset some users who’ve had their name on a specific handle, but then again, with X’s popularity seemingly in decline, it’s hard to see many people or brands being willing to fork out $50k for a better-suited name.
As noted, under Musk, X has been keen to explore new revenue streams, as he looks to get the business back in the black, and on a path to becoming a more viable, long-term option.
The main push here has been cost-cutting, with Musk culling 80% of the app’s former staff, while X has also implemented higher costs for API access, and new charges for X Premium, including its $1,000 per month gold checkmark package for brands.
Which also seems beyond the realm of viability for most brands, though X’s pitch is that businesses that pay also get additional exposure benefits, which makes it worth $1,000 per month in comparable ad spend.
But then again, X has been giving the gold tick to all brands that spend $1,000 per month on ads, negating that premise, as the only way it would be of value is if you weren’t already spending that amount in the first place. More recently, X has informed verified organizations that it will cut them off from the program if they don’t keep up their ad spend.
Overall, there does seem to be a disconnect between what X thinks its various offerings are worth and what users are willing to pay. Fewer than 1% of X users are paying for X Premium, and while it has now added some new pricing tiers for the program, in order to entice more interest, it’s hard to see this catching on, and becoming a major consideration for the vast majority of the platform’s 244 million active users.
X even seems to have conceded this point with its new program, charging new account sign-ups in New Zealand and the Philippines $1 per year if they want to post or engage in the app. That’s a more viable fee, though even then, I’m guessing that most people won’t pay. 80% of X users only ever read posts in the app, without engaging in any way, and if you force more people to pay for the privilege, it seems more likely that even more of them will just stick to reading, with the eventual outcome being fewer posts in the app, for not much return.
But money’s not really the main objective in this effort. Elon is convinced that charging a fee is the only way forward for X, and social media in general, in the battle against bots.
INSIGHT: Elon explains why X needs to introduce payment verification for all users (the $1 Not A Bot program).
He says the problem of AI bots may become insurmountable in 2024, and any social platform that doesn’t implement verification will be overrun.pic.twitter.com/hU7iiR3aPj
— X News Daily (@xDaily) November 3, 2023
The argument makes some sense, but at the same time, X is also rolling out an ID verification program to confirm that real people are behind accounts. That would be another way to combat bot profiles, but it’s currently only available to those who are signed up to X Premium.
So, by Elon’s logic, paying profiles are real people, and those real people can double confirm that they’re genuine by undertaking this additional ID verification element. But non-paying users can’t do it.
It’s contradictions like this that hint at another motivation for X’s payments push, like maybe connecting a bank account to user profiles to expedite its shift into payments, shopping, etc.
It’s hard to know exactly what the longer-term view is, but X continues to seek new methods for squeezing more money out of users, for anything that may be deemed as being of value in the app.
So if you really want that cool @handle, better go have a word to your bank about extending your mortgage.