Nov 5 (Reuters) – Twitter on Saturday updated its app in Apple’s App Store to start charging $8 for coveted blue check marks, in Elon Musk’s first major overhaul of the social media platform.
The change comes a week after Musk acquired the social media company in a $44 billion deal. The billionaire founder and CEO of electric car maker Tesla ( TSLA.O ) cut half of its staff at Twitter and has promised to start charging users more.
In an update to Apple iOS devices, Twitter said those who “sign up now” for $7.99 a month can receive the blue badge next to their usernames, “just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you already follow.”
Before Musk took over, blue checkmarks next to a person’s username meant that Twitter verified that the account belonged to the person or company that claimed it. It was not immediately clear how or if Twitter planned to verify the identity of the user beyond charging a fee.
According to the iOS notification, other benefits in the update include “halving ads,” the ability to post longer videos on Twitter, and priority ranking for quality content.
Twitter and Musk, via Tesla, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Twitter’s new boss flagged the updates earlier this week to monetize the social media network and make it less reliant on ads. Twitter is currently free for most users.
Twitter’s update said the new service with verification will be available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
“Once we confirm it works well in the first set of countries and we’ve done the translation work, it will roll out worldwide,” Musk said in a tweet on Saturday.
Twitter Blue will roll out in India in “hopefully less than a month,” Musk tweeted in response to a follower’s question.
In a separate tweet, Musk also added that “fixing search is a top priority” on Twitter.
“We can beat it,” he responded in another tweet when a user pointed out that YouTube gives creators 55% of ad revenue.
“Twitter will soon add the ability to attach long-form text to tweets, ending the absurdity of notepad screenshots. Followed by monetization for all forms of content,” Musk added in a tweet.
As of Saturday, the update to Twitter Blue remained at the old price of $4.99.
Shortly after the update was available to users, Twitter product manager Esther Crawford said early on that the new service was not yet live.
“The new Blue isn’t live yet – our sprint to launch continues, but some people can see us making updates because we’re testing and driving changes in real time,” she said in a chirping.
Earlier this week, Crawford went viral after she retweeted a photo of herself sleeping on the office floor at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters following Musk’s takeover.
“When your team is pushing around the clock to make deadlines, sometimes #SleepWhereYouWork”.
Additional reporting by Megan Davies; Sneha Bhowmik in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Ken Li
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