Alright folks, buckle up, your brain is about to hurt.
Twitter is apparently backtracking from its “Official” Gray verification badge just hours after rolling it out. The sudden reversal comes on the heels of fervent backlash from users who said the free alternative to the traditional blue verified badge was confusing, redundant, and unnecessary. In a pair of weeks at Twitter marked by mass layoffs, cryptic messaging, personal vendettas, reverse firings, and amateur leadership, the gray badges fiasco might take the cake for the most painfully stupid Elon Musk led product effort so far.
Let’s back up for a second.
Twitter’s head of Early Stage Products Esther Crawford announced the “Official” gray badge badge on Tuesday evening pitching it as a free verification method for government accounts, commercial companies, business partners, major media outlets, and publishers. If you’re wondering why Twitter, which already had a functioning verification process in place, needed to introduce the badges in the first place, that’s because the company’s new CEO had a bright idea to charge users $8 per month to retain their coveted blue checkmark.
It turns out, as Reuters noted, some public figures and government officials weren’t interested in paying the world’s richest man. That realization sent Twitter policy executives scrambling to roll out an alternative in order to avoid basically incentivizing a flood of imposter accounts and misinformation seeping its way onto the platform.
And roll it out they did. On Wednesday morning, Twitter accounts matching the above description—such as The New York Times, The White House, and even Twitter’s own official account—appeared with the “Official” gray badge. However, rather than provide clarity, the badges only added more confusion since in each of those examples they appeared in addition to the accounts’ original blue verified badge, leading many to wonder what the hell the new checkmark was supposed to mean in the first place.
Making matters even worse, blue check marked accounts without the official gray badge appear grayish/white when viewed on mobile dark mode. The screenshots below show two accounts with the original blue verification badge that could easily be mistaken for the gray official badge to an untrained eye.
Then, just hours after the double badges appeared, they began to vanish. Prominent government and brand accounts soon no longer had the ‘Official’ badges and their accounts reverted back to exactly the way they looked yesterday. Musk commented on the confusing shitstorm on his Twitter.
“Please note that Twitter will do lots of dumb things in coming months,” Musk wrote. “We will keep what works & change what doesn’t.”
Hours later, Musk commented on the fiasco in a Twitter Spaces event with advertisers.
“The problem with the Official check mark is that, other than being an aesthetic nightmare, is that it was just another way of creating a two-class system, therefore not addressing the core problem,” Musk said. “Too many entities would have legacy blue check marks. We’re going to be extremely vigorous about eliminating deception.”
Crawford, the executive who announced the Official badges launch essentially told users to get used to the company’s new move fast and break things ethos. In this case, Twitter moved very fast and broke their product even faster.
“There are no sacred cows in product at Twitter anymore.” Crawford said. Elon is willing to try lots of things—many will fail, some will succeed.”
Okay, so Twitter’s Official Gray badges are dead then, right? Wrong.
Not long after advising its users to not cry over its mistakes, Crafword doubled down on the gray badges and said the rollout would continue but with a primary focus on “government and commercial entities to begin with.” However, The White House’s Twitter account, which had both the blue and gray badges early Wednesday morning, didn’t have the Official badge at time of writing. Neither, it should be noted, did at least a half dozen other government Twitter accounts Gizmodo checked.