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X Plans to Expand its Annual Fee for All New Accounts in Order to Combat Bot Sign-Ups

This is probably not a great sign for Elon Musk’s X project.

Today, Musk has confirmed that X (formerly Twitter) is going to expand its one-off fee initiative for new X accounts, as a means to combat the “relentless onslaught of bots” in the app.

Musk confirmed the expansion after a user noted an update to the back-end code of the app, which indicates that X is looking to charge all users “a small annual fee before you’re able to post, like, bookmark and reply.”

Users will be able to create an account and browse the app for free, but if you want to actually interact, you’ll seemingly need to pay. Musk further noted that, after three months, new accounts will be able to interact for free.

X originally launched its $1 account launch fee initiative in New Zealand and the Philippines last October, with the idea being that by implementing a small charge, that’ll make it much harder for bot farms to open thousands of accounts, as the cost will get too high.

X also sees “payment verification” as a means to confirm that a real human owns an account. Which isn’t really a thing, but…

It’s not clear as yet whether all users will be charged a fee, or just those in selected regions to begin with. But it’s another step towards charging everybody to use the platform, which is another concept that Musk has floated in the past.

And really, the fact that X is still dealing with a lot of bots is no big surprise.

For example, it’s long seemed confusing to me why X keeps bragging about stats like this:

Because while more people signing up is clearly a good thing, at 1.7 million new sign-ups per day, X’s total active user numbers should also be rising, a lot, in-step.

But they’re not.

1.7 million more users per day would equate to 51 million people joining per month, yet X, at present, has the exact same amount of daily active users (250 million) that it had in November 2022.

So no growth in 16 months, despite 51 million more accounts signing up every 30 days.

Seems like a lot of bots, right?

“But Elon said that he’d killed the bots, didn’t he?”

He did. Several times.

But clearly, X’s bot problem is far more significant than Musk originally anticipated, hence the expanded, and significant action to confront the issue once again.

Because you would have to assume that a lot of real people who are considering signing up for X will hesitate if they have to pay a fee, no matter how small it is. There’s no data available on what happened in the original test pool, and maybe it didn’t slow down X sign-ups in these regions too much. But given the many questions swirling around Musk’s X project, I would assume that a lot of people would be less-than-enthused about giving over their payment info to the company, especially at the sign-up stage.

With this in mind, you would have to assume that X’s bot problem is also bigger than it’s letting on, which Elon himself claimed before he was forced to buy the app.

Back in 2022, as part of his effort to get out of paying $44 billion to acquire Twitter, Musk claimed that the platform wasn’t actually worth what he’d offered for it, because Twitter management had falsely claimed that fewer than 5% of its active users were bots. Musk and his team had conducted their own analysis, and they found that it was more like 33%, though Musk eventually settled on it being a more conservative 20%.

Maybe that’s true, and maybe X actually has 20% fewer users than its reported figures, or more, potentially.

Taking such an extreme step seems to suggest that this is a bigger concern than the reported 5%, which is another consideration in the expansion of this push.

Either way, it seems like it’s not a great sign for the long-term viability of the app. The platform is already down 50% on its previous ad revenue levels, and its subscription uptake hasn’t seemingly gained much steam.

If bots are also still causing major issues, that could prompt even more hesitation from ad partners, and unless people really want to use X’s Grok chatbot, I don’t see how it’s going to augment its intake with new streams.

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