Elon Musk, the controversial billionaire owner of X (formerly Twitter) has triggered more debate by suggesting that all users of his platform may soon have to pay for the privilege.
Currently it is still free, but he dropped the hint that such a move could be coming during a live streamed conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following it up with his justification that indicated that he believed it would be the only way to counter bots.
The Tesla and SpaceX boss has already introduced a premium payment system giving enhanced services to subscribers with features such as: longer posts, editing capabilities and increased visibility.
It is unclear if it was a serious threat, or just an off-the-cuff remark, but were a paywall be inserted it would represent a high risk strategy, with the potential to lose large numbers of users.
It could also have a knock-on effect of driving down advertising revenue, which at present accounts for a very high percentage of the company’s income.
Long-term aim to copy China app
Since acquiring the platform for $44bn last year, Mr Musk has made no secret of the fact that his long-term vision is to turn it into an “everything app” capable of handling a full range of an individuals requirements.
These would include among others: payments, shopping, video calling and general business matters, seemingly modelled on China’s WeChat.
During his live stream with Mr Netanyahu, the world’s richest man boasted that X now has 550 million “monthly users”, generating between 100 million and 200 million posts per day.
He dismissed any threat from competition such as: Bluesky, Mastodon and his big rival Threads, recently created by Meta.
Mass exodus highly possible
Mr Musk neglected to say what sort of price he was considering putting in place, saying only that it would only be a “small amount of money”. Coming from someone who has an estimated net worth of $263bn then his interpretation of small amount is tricky to gauge.
Currently X Premium costs $8 a month in the US, with the price differing from country to country. If he goes ahead with his plan it could backfire spectacularly, as it would very likely see users leaving in their droves, probably giving many who are already disillusioned, the final excuse to quit for an alternative.
Very few premium account holders
Analysts estimated in August of this year that in the region of 830,000 users are subscribed to the Premium accounts, which is just a tiny fraction of its 540 million overall numbers.
Nevertheless, Musk will do as he pleases, regardless of the consequences, as he has proved time and again.
Indeed, the more controversial his ideas, the more likely it seems he will push them through.