X restores blue checks to influential accounts

Just as Elon Musk said at the end of March, X, formerly known as Twitter, is attempting to remain relevant by gifting premium features to users with at least 2,500 verified followers.

Many popular accounts that had not previously signed up for X’s exclusive features were surprised on Wednesday evening to find that they had been gifted premium subscriptions, including, of course, the iconic blue badge.

It seems like the social network is rolling out the change that Musk posted about on March 27th – along with his usual rants on how advertisers are trying to censor content on the platform.

“Going forward, all X accounts with over 2,500 verified subscriber followers will get Premium features for free, and accounts with over 5000 will get Premium+ for free,” Musk said back then.

The features include reduced or no ads and higher placement in replies to other users’ posts. Premium+ subscribers are also able to use Grok, a ChatGPT competitor, although it will soon be opened to members of Premium, a lower tier, as well.

Finally, of course, popular accounts get the blue badge. A year ago, Musk controversially removed the verification badge from most users who previously had them and reserved the blue check for paying subscribers.

But subscriptions never really took off on X. A third-party researcher, Travis Brown, said in August 2023 that X Premium only had around 830,000 paying subscribers. In total, X has about 250 million daily active users.

Quite obviously, by gifting free Premium features to influential accounts, Musk is hoping to attract or retain them just as Meta’s Threads is gaining popularity and threatening to actually overtake X in size.

There’s a problem, though. Oliver Alexander, an open-source intelligence analyst, said that only four X accounts currently have more than 5,000 “verified subscribers,” and eight have over 2,500 of them.

It really is confusing. But Musk probably meant that the change is affecting any accounts with at least 2,500 followers who were paying for X Premium – not accounts that had more than 2,500 people paying to subscribe to them personally.

Previously, the blue tick was displayed only on legacy verified accounts, serving as proof that famous people, journalists, or politicians really are running said profiles. But it was eventually removed from accounts that didn’t become paying subscribers.

Critics soon said the change made it harder to find reliable information on the platform, and many users migrated to other text-based platforms such as Mastodon or Bluesky. Threads, the Meta-owned app, is also making waves.

Meta recently began testing cash bonuses for users who post engaging content on Threads and Instagram, Business Insider reported this week.