X owner Elon Musk today floated the idea that the social network formerly known as Twitter may no longer be a free site. In a live-streamed conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, Musk said the company was “moving to a small monthly payment for the use of the X system. He suggested that such a change would be necessary to deal with the problem of bots on the platform.
“It’s the only way I can think of to combat vast armies of bots,” explained Musk. “Because a bot costs a fraction of a penny — call it a tenth of a penny — but even if it has to pay…a few dollars or something, the effective cost of bots is very high,” he said. Plus, every time a bot creator wanted to make another bot, they would need another new payment method.
Musk didn’t say what the new subscription payment would cost, but described it as a “small amount of money.”
During the conversation, Musk also shared new metrics for X, noting the site has now 550 million monthly users, who generate 100 to 200 million posts every day. However, it wasn’t clear if Musk is counting automated accounts — that is, either good bots like news feeds or bad bots like spammers — among those numbers.
This figure also didn’t allow for a direct comparison with Twitter’s user base pre-Musk, which was calculated using a specific metric Twitter had invented called the “average monetizable daily active user,” or mDAU. This older metric indicated the users on Twitter who could be monetized by viewing its ads. During its last public earnings of Q1 2022 Twitter had 229 million mDAUs.
Musk didn’t expand on his plan to charge for X or when such a change would come about. But since Musk took over the platform last year, the company has been pushing its users to subscribe to its paid subscription product, X Premium (previously Twitter Blue). This $8 per month or $84 per year subscription service offers a variety of features like the ability to edit posts, half the ad load, prioritized rankings in search and conversations, the ability to write longer posts, and more.
X doesn’t disclose how many paid subscribers it has, but independent research indicates X Premium hasn’t attracted a majority of X users. One analysis determined only 827,615 users currently subscribe to X Premium, for example.
The idea of charging for X is not a new idea for Musk. Platformer last year reported that Musk was weighing the idea of putting all of Twitter behind a paywall, in fact.
The larger conversation between Musk and Netanyahu focused on AI technology and its regulation, though the topic of hate speech on X came up. Here, Musk again claimed he’s “against antisemitism.” Musk latest spat earlier this saw him threatening to file a defamation lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League, which has accused both Musk and X of being antisemitic.