Twitter should not hide basic app improvements behind the blue payment wall

Twitter launched its new subscription product, Twitter Blue, in the US this week – it is a service of $ 2.99 per month that promises to make Twitter “more adaptable, more frictionless, and simply put – better.”

Let’s just start by looking at what’s actually included in a Twitter Blue subscription.

  • Ad-free articles (a version of Scroll, for articles you click through on Twitter)
  • Top Articles (a variant of Nuzzel, for articles discussed on Twitter)
  • Themes
  • Bookmark folders
  • Customizable navigation
  • An “undo”[ads1]; button for tweets
  • A “Reader” mode for reading threads
  • Twitter Blue Labs for early access features, including longer videos and attached DMs

When we look at that list, there are two different categories of things here: features that enhance or support journalism and news in one way or another (which are mostly good) and features that make the Twitter app better or otherwise easier to use, which I have more problems with.

It does not take much time to use Twitter to realize that the ability to quickly fix a typo would be a nice thing to have. Or that the company should do something to fix wired calls, which has become such a mess that there is actually enough demand for a third-party service, Thread Reader, specifically to try to quarrel in the chaos.

But instead of just fixing the obvious issues with the product, Twitter Blue takes features like the undo button for tweets, browser mode for threads, or the ability to edit the navigation bar – basic enhancements that will improve Twitter’s usability for everyone – and limits them to just those who are willing to pay for them.

As Twitter’s blog post states, Blue’s goal is to make Twitter “more frictionless” and “better.” But by limiting these changes to customers willing to pay $ 2.99 per month, Twitter is actively making its product worse for the majority of users in an effort to try to squeeze extra money out of the much smaller percentage of customers willing to pay.

Twitter has effectively spent years letting much of the platform stagnate, with unexplained changes such as changing the like button to a heart, turning into Instagram-chasing “Fleets” and a controversial Tweetdeck beta. And now as the company do has things that customers have been begging for for years (although the undo button is still not the edit button that everyone has called for), it charges users for the privilege.

In other words, fixing Twitter’s terrible-to-follow threads should be standard, not something that requires spending $ 36 a year.

The scroll and Nuzzel style features (ad-free articles and top articles) make more sense to me. The idea here of subsidizing and supporting advertising-free journalism with subscription payments is good, just as it was when Scroll was first launched a few years ago.

Scroll’s dependence on cookies (and the general movement of the technology industry away from them) meant that it was probably inevitable that it would have to switch to another model sooner or later. And given the proliferation of Twitter as a news source for millions of people, it’s probably not the worst thing for a follower of the service. Building Nuzzel’s top articles on Twitter – where many of these conversations take place anyway – also makes a lot of sense. I do not fully agree with the fact that these services are now built into the Twitter app exclusively, but it is the cost of doing business in a world of service procurement.

But the bulk of the Twitter Blues features just feel weird to me. Looking at Twitter asking users to pony up for extra quality of life changes, as if the company could not take the time or expense to support a undo button without the extra fees, seems dishonest to me in the same way as Disney Starting a Patreon for to fund a Marvel show or that Apple launches a Kickstarter will be.

It’s still very early for Twitter Blue, so there’s a lot of time for Twitter to improve the service, roll out more functionality and expand what’s included in the subscription. But for now, Twitter Blue feels strangely caught between the news ambitions and a frustrating cash.

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