Twitter has always been an odd case study in the social media landscape. Far smaller than Facebook — but still holding an outsized amount of influence as the social media platform of choice for journalists, politicians and stars.
The service has always struggled to grow beyond its core user base, experimenting with new features like a short-lived, Stories-style “Fleets” option, and a Facebook-esque algorithm feed that is typically derided by users who prefer a real-time list with the most recent tweets at the top.
Twitter still seems game to experiment with new ways to grow its user base, but it’s also willing to double down on the power users and find ways to monetize the folks who live life one tweet at a time. Enter Twitter Blue, Twitter’s premium subscription service. For $2.99 per month, Twitter Blue brings with it several random, useful, weird and (in one glaring case) features not available to standard users. After using the service pretty much since it launched wide in the United States, it definitely influences the way you use Twitter — in a whole lot of ways.
There are some very handy features included in Twitter Blue, many of which make you wonder why they haven’t been there from the start. Users are able to rearrange the feature bar at the bottom, to create quick access to the tools you use the most (i.e. notifications, messages, bookmarks, etc.). There’s also the extremely handy “Undo Tweet” feature, which effectively just puts a 30-second delay so you can get a look at your tweet before it goes wide. It’s handy to allow for one last proofread and also can show how text/emojis/links etc. might break and look in a live tweet before it goes out.
There’s also a Reader mode that makes it much easier to condense and consume lengthy tweet threads, which again seems obvious, but is easy on the eyes when following a long thread. In a relatively strange perk, Blue users also get ad-free access to several high-profile websites such as Vox, Buzzfeed News, The Atlantic, Variety, Mother Jones, and The Hollywood Reporter. It’s a bit random, but if you consume a lot of news on Twitter, it can be a real game changer.
There’s also an extremely useful feature to see the “Top Articles” among your followers, which makes for a quick and easy way to see what’s trending and leading the conversation among the people you actually follow.
Its clear Twitter tossed in a grab bag of features when putting together Blue, and some of them aren’t all that useful for the average user. There’s a bookmark folder tool, which is more useful in concept than execution, especially when you’ve conditioned users so much to use the “Like” function in that same way to flag tweets for future reference.
Blue users also don’t get any type of verification benefit, which is worth noting simply for the status symbol that blue checkmark has become in the past several years. Twitter has always been a bit nebulous with how it doles out those verified check marks, but creating some type of middle tier of verification for paying customers could’ve made some type of sense.
Paying users also get the ability to change the app’s color scheme and main icon, including some rotating limited edition icons tied to the seasons, or major events. It’s a neat perk but none of the icons are really all that great, and if you choose to use a limited edition icon they expire pretty quickly, so you’re frequently getting pinged to choose a new one.
The Twitter Labs tab holds a ton of potential, but, for now, it’s a bit of a letdown. It promises to be a testing ground for new experimental features for users. It’s an incredibly cool idea on the surface; use your power users as a built-in base to try out new features, all while making it a perk for Blue. But, at the moment, all you get is the ability to set an NFT as your profile photo (which is a neat feature if you’re into NFTs, and kind of useless otherwise), and the ability to upload longer videos than normal. Useful, sure, but not exactly the cutting-edge experimentation you might be looking for when promised access to experimental features. Hopefully, Twitter will make deeper use of that function to soft test buzz and the application of new features, but for now, there’s just not much there.
The white whale, the elephant in the room, the thing we’ve always wanted — an edit button — remains as elusive as ever, even for Twitter Blue users. It’s a function that would make sense for all levels of user (with an ability to view previous versions of a post, much like Facebook does), but Twitter has remained weirdly defiant about adding one. When Blue was announced, users were hopeful the killer feature would be the legendary edit button. There are plenty of users who would happily pay just for that feature alone. But it seems Twitter will never just give us what we want.
One other feature that would be handy is the ability to completely turn off the “Home” setting Twitter tries to push users into as a default, which delivers “recommended” tweets instead of displaying most recent tweets first. You can obviously still pivot between the options, but allowing Blue users to flip a switch and make it vanish for good would be nice.
Put simply, Twitter Blue is the epitome of Twitter itself. If you use the platform a lot and consume a large amount of your news within the app, Twitter Blue has several features that work well. The layout customization features are also nice, to streamline access to what you want to see. But it’s also uneven, with weird corners, half-baked ideas and some things that still don’t make a lot of sense.