The Elon Musk era stumbled out of the gate and stepped on a few rakes this weekend, as the skeleton crew still around was forced to delay the new $8 blue check system, and management are begging some freshly canned staff members to return.
Today was supposed to be the big day, the glorious rollout of the new Elon Musk Twitter’s $20 paid subscription blue-check system, which would proudly herald in the new age of Musk’s anti-woke free speech brilliance and bring gobs of new revenue streams to the fearless billionaire tech baron conqueror Musk. And Musk’s mighty hammer dangled over those Twitter employees for whom there would be no mercy if they failed his flawless vision. As The Verge reported last Sunday, “Employees working on the project were told on Sunday that they need to meet a deadline of November 7th to launch the feature or they will be fired.”
Let’s check in on how things are going at Musk’s glorious new, post-purge Twitter.
Elon Musk right now is like if Elmer Fudd bought a website of Bugs Bunnies— Ken(neth) (@disasterlaster) November 6, 2022
Of course, the $20 blue check was whittled down to an $8 blue check just two days after that edict last Sunday, I guess because Stephen King made fun of Musk. The new $7.99/month blue-check subscription did launch on iOS Saturday, to many complaints from users that the blue check itself was not showing up for them. Twitter then hastily announced Sunday morning that they were delaying the rollout of the $8 a month service, with CNN reporting the delay would be “until after the midterm elections,” a sensible-sounding approach to block any last-minute electoral malfeasance.
The new Blue isn’t live yet — the sprint to our launch continues but some folks may see us making updates because we are testing and pushing changes in real-time. The Twitter team is legendary. New Blue… coming soon! https://t.co/ewTSTjx3t7— Esther Crawford ✨ (@esthercrawford) November 5, 2022
But folks, this may be just another example of Musk pulling a Pee-wee Herman “I meant to do that,” because as the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, the rollout was going disastrously. “Twitter Inc.’s first major product change under new owner Elon Musk encountered a setback as a promised software update to let some subscribers buy blue check marks for their accounts led to widespread confusion after it failed to materialize for most users,” the Journal reported. “Users said that they weren’t able to activate the update. A senior Twitter manager said updates for some users were part of early testing and that the new service was coming soon.”
You see a (remaining) Twitter product manager Esther Crawford explaining this away above, saying “the sprint to our launch continues but some folks may see us making updates because we are testing and pushing changes in real-time.” But what the remaining executives are saying on private Slack channels is a whole different story.
From Twitter Slack: “sorry to @- everybody on the weekend but I wanted to pass along that we have the opportunity to ask folks that were left off if they will come back. I need to put together names and rationales by 4PM PST Sunday.— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) November 6, 2022
The product clearly needs work, and NY Times podcaster Caey Newton has internal Slack messages of Twitter managers, tails between legs, trying to get fired employees to come back. Direct quotes from a Twitter executive: “sorry to @- everybody on the weekend but I wanted to pass along that we have the opportunity to ask folks that were left off if they will come back. I need to put together names and rationales by 4PM PST Sunday,” the message reportedly says. “I’ll do some research but if any of you who have been in contact with folks who might come back and who we think will help us, please nominate tomorrow before 4. I think we might use some android and iOS help.”
Bloomberg confirms that laid-off Twitter employees have been asked back, but estimates that just “dozens of workers” have received the offer to be un-fired. Still, this decision-making is a highly unorganized look for Twitter. “Some of those who are being asked to return were laid off by mistake,” Bloomberg reports. “Others were let go before management realised that their work and experience may be necessary to build the new features Musk envisions.”
Elon Musk said Twitter has seen a “massive drop in revenue,” as a growing number of advertisers pause spending on the platform in the wake of his $44 billion acquisition https://t.co/NPfPsTcJYI— CNN (@CNN) November 4, 2022
Of course, this chaos comes amidst a giant advertiser exodus from Twitter, Musk suspending celebrity accounts for making fun of him, and urging people to pay for a blue check after years of using the term “blue check” as an insult term. It seems unlikely that that $8 blue check is going to have much appeal to many users, outside a specific subset of white, male Elon fanboys. But watching Twitter implode under Elon Musk’s tenure, for no charge whatsoever, might be the more appealing prospect.
Image: NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 31: Elon Musk attends Heidi Klum's 2022 Hallowe'en Party at Sake No Hana at Moxy LES on October 31, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)