Twitter Is Working on Some Kind of Mysterious Subscription Feature

Illustration for article titled Twitter Is Working on Some Kind of Mysterious Subscription Feature
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Twitter may be finally working on a way for you to monetize your shitty tweets without starting a podcast or putting a Cash.me link in your bio—that, or it’s launching a new tier of premium or ad-free accounts. As reported by VentureBeat on Wednesday, the revenue-hungry social network is indeed building some kind of subscription platform.

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The project is named Gryphon and was mentioned in two Twitter job postings for a contract backend Scala software engineer (since deleted from LinkedIn) and a senior full-stack software engineer. The latter ad explains that Twitter is building a “subscription platform, one that can be reused by other teams in the future,” and that the job will work with Twitter and its Payments team, which handles ad billing:

We are a new team, codenamed Gryphon. We are building a subscription platform, one that can be reused by other teams in the future. This is a first for Twitter! Gryphon is a team of web engineers who are closely collaborating with the Payments team and the Twitter.com team. We are looking for a full-stack engineer to lead the Payment and Subscription client work, someone who values collaboration as much as we do and can act as a bridge for the engineering team. It’s a great opportunity for all teams involved!

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A Twitter spokesperson told Gizmodo via email that the company wouldn’t hide a big announcement in a careers page and that it is exploring a range of possible ways to increase revenue. Beyond that, there’s not a lot to go off of but conjecture.

One obvious possibility is that Twitter simply wants to charge power users for ad-free accounts or access to advanced analytics, something it’s reportedly considered in the past and would primarily be of use for corporations, nonprofits, news organizations, political or fundraising campaigns, and people who obsessively cultivate their personal brands. Twitter could also charge for features like the ability to see multiple customized feeds or personalized alerts on trending topics.

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A spicier speculation is that Twitter is working on a Twitch- or Patreon-style method for users to charge for access to an entire Twitter feed or specific posts on a public account, or some kind of virtual tip jar. Either possibility could have unforeseen effects on Twitter’s nebulous culture, to the extent that most of that activity currently happens offsite. Becoming a payments processor would also be a radical change for Twitter—it currently relies on ad revenue and data licensing to make money. Directly generating transaction fees that might have otherwise gone through a competitor like PayPal or never occurred at all could be a big moneymaker.

That, however, would be one hell of a pivot. It’s also easy to see how running subscription services through a site where anyone can sign up anonymously and registering a new account to evade bans is trivial could become a headache for Twitter and create new funding pipelines for prohibited activity (white supremacists) or cybercrime (e.g., the now-classic Elon Musk Bitcoin giveaway scam).

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The likeliest, and most boring, explanation is that Twitter is simply building the infrastructure to explore any of the above options, and that the platform has no specific plans as of yet. Regardless of what’s going on, though, the rumors gave Twitter stock around a 7.34% bump on Wednesday.

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Tebow Kneeled First

There is exactly one scenario where I will give Twitter my money: if doing so will shut it the fuck down. Forever.