As promised, Twitter Legacy Blue verification checks started quietly disappearing from user accounts Thursday afternoon. Now the only way to hold onto the coveted Blue Tick is by paying Twitter a $7.99 a month subscription fee.
Elon Musk announced the final day to pay up last week and -- even as he juggled the first SpaceX StarShip launch (which ended with a spectacular mid-air explosion) -- Musk found time to set his draconian plan in motion.
The change appears to have impacted many legacy verified accounts including those of The Pope, who goes by Pontifex on the platform, and actor Halle Berry, who made it clear in a tweet that she would not be paying. Even Beyoncé and Lady Gaga lost their Blue Checks.
As of this writing, basketball player Lebron James still had his Blue Check, which says he now subscribes to Twitter Blue. This despite the fact that James tweeted on March 31, "Welp guess my blue will be gone soon cause if you know me I ain’t paying the 5."
Elon Musk later admitted on Twitter that he is paying for the accounts of James, actor William Shatner, and Stephen King.
Who are you on Twitter?
The good news is that those who are verified with a Blue Check are being asked for more than just a credit card. Now, when you click on a Blue Check, you see this message: "This account is verified because they are subscribed to Twitter Blue and verified their phone number."
The phone number is to ensure that those seeking Twitter verification aren't impersonating someone. But is it useful? After all, it's still completely possible to have a phone number and claim you're Beyoncé even if you're not. There's also little to stop someone from changing their Twitter name (but not the "@" handle) to someone else's name. An issue Monica Lewinsky pointed out last month.
As Journalist Ed Krassenstien (a paying Twitter Blue member) wrote on Twitter on Thursday, there could be an imposter problem for those who've put in the time growing a Twitter following. "Some people spent years building up accounts and building a presence on this platform. They did so without the assumption of having to eventually pay for it. Now, it is extremely difficult for their fans to differentiate their posts from imposters’ posts unless they pay."
What does Blue get you
Twitter Blue is not all about the Blue Tick. Subscription has its privileges, including massive 10,000-character tweets, fewer ads, the ability to post longer and higher-quality videos, and prioritized rankings.
The last bit may prove frustrating for those previously verified, since it may soon be harder to get their Tweets noticed and found through search. Still, Musk's pay-to-play system may be necessary as the now-private Twitter struggles to become profitable. Musk's previous efforts have included massive staff cuts. He's also undermined his own efforts with tweets and actions that have so concerned advertisers that they fled the platform. There are some indications, though, that they are returning.
Today is a new day for Twitter. If nothing else, it's a social media landscape where anyone can have a Blue Check, if they're willing to pay. It remains to be seen if this is the magic elixir Twitter needs to survive.
Update 4-21-2023: Added new information about Musk personally paying for some celebrity accounts.