Social media must evolve or die. These days, reckless trolls pushing people into the digital space, rampant misinformation campaigns and the prevalence of bots have turned some platforms, such as Twitter, into a spam wasteland.
We are all guinea pigs who have participated in an experiment over the past 10 years to see if it makes sense to volunteer our personal information in exchange for free access. We have long agreed to see customized ads all day long, which is a basic business model. It hasn’t worked very well for us. Now it’s up to us to decide if we want to abandon this established norm.
Guess what? We’re about to be put to the test.
According to multiple reports, Twitter is preparing a subscription model in which you will pay $3 a month for Twitter Blue (it was just recently introduced as an app purchase). One of the key features is the ability to undo a tweet, which is about what you’d expect from apps like Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Word. If you write a tweet using the social media platform and then notice that you made a typo or said something wrong, you can block the tweet. No trace of it. It will look as if the tweet never existed.
Here’s what it looks like:
Twitter is working on “Undo Send” timer for tweets pic.twitter.com/nS0kuijPK0
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) March 5, 2021
It’s somewhat similar to a feature that’s been around for a while, where you can cancel a retweet, which erases it from your timeline.
Twitter users have been complaining for years, almost since its launch, about the inability to quickly delete a tweet and change your mind. In its early days, a tweet was like an SMS or even a radio signal, as it was transmitted around the world and became part of the public lexicon. Until 2017, tweets were archived at the Library of Congress. Today, users transmit about 500 million tweets a day.
Meanwhile, we are slowly moving into an era where many of us are tired of having our personal information sold online, and after one Google search, we see ads for kayaks and baby food all day.
The business model has become tiresome.
Twitter Blue includes a “collection” feature (essentially your favorite posts) and a read mode that makes it easier to view long tweets.
The “undo” feature, on the other hand, is mildly appealing. When you tweet something, you’ll see a progress bar that you can click to stop the tweet from appearing. I use something similar in Microsoft Outlook, which waits about 15 seconds before sending an email. If you can cancel a tweet, that’s much better than deleting it.
And here comes the hardest part.
What is it really worth to you?
I remember a book by a former Wired editor called Free: The Future of a Radical Price that predicted some of these things. He made the argument that free isn’t always free, and he was clearly right about that. I wish the book had delved more into the gray area of low-cost in-app services and social media as a commercial enterprise. The guy is really smart, but Twitter barely existed back then.
I doubt this new feature will work. Free is not free, but $3 is a lot for minor features. To me, Twitter Blue sounds like a luxury concierge service in a hotel that everyone ignores as they walk by.
I love social media, it rocked my world as a writer and book author, but I’m not sure this new business model will work. In this case, I know there’s no such thing as free, and I’m not happy about it. If you start charging me for it, I’ll probably look for other platforms that provide the same services (and are actually “free”).