Advertisement

Meta begins selling blue badge on Instagram and Facebook as Zuckerberg borrows Musk playbook

Facebook-parent Meta has launched a new subscription service, called Meta Verified, that will allow users to add the coveted blue check mark to their Instagram and Facebook accounts for up to $15 a month by verifying their identity, its chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Sunday, tapping a new revenue channel that has returned mixed success for its smaller rival Twitter.

The subscription service, first rolling out in New Zealand and Australia starting this week, is priced at $11.99 per month on the web or $14.99 on Apple’s iOS and Google's Android. Meta will allow users to verify their identity by using their government-issued ID cards. The company said the subscription service will also offer "increased visibility and reach," improved protection against impersonation attacks and direct access to customer support.

Meta Verified "is about increasing authenticity and security across our services," said Zuckerberg in a Facebook post. The subscription service will be extended to "more countries soon," he said, without elaborating on the timeline.

Meta has opted not to charge its customers for most of its services in more than a decade and a half since its founding. More recently, its revenue has taken a hit following Apple's decision to introduce stringent privacy changes known as App Tracking Transparency on iOS that curtail the social network's ability to track users' internet activities to better target them with ads. Meta, which makes nearly all of its money from advertising, said last year that Apple's move would cost the company more than $10 billion in lost ads revenue in 2022.

"Long term, we want to build a subscription offering that’s valuable to everyone, including creators, businesses and our community at large. As part of this vision, we are evolving the meaning of the verified badge so we can expand access to verification and more people can trust the accounts they interact with are authentic," Meta wrote in a blog post.

Subscription services are becoming popular among social media networks.

Sunday's announcement follows social platform Snap launching its own subscription service last year, through which it has converted 2.5 million users into paid customers, and also Elon Musk revamping Twitter's subscription service, Twitter Blue, to offer a range of additional features including the blue check mark. Twitter has expanded Twitter Blue to over a dozen markets in recent months including India and Indonesia. As of mid-January, only about 180,000 accounts had signed up for Twitter Blue, according to The Information.

Musk, a vocal critic of Facebook, is betting on turning Twitter Blue into a major revenue driver for Twitter, which he acquired last year for $44 billion.

The blue checkmark has long been one of the coveted features on social media platforms. Previously it was reserved for public figures such as lawmakers, actors, musicians, sports athletes and journalists.

Musk has lambasted the idea, arguing that the feature should be open to all. Those who attained the blue tick mark outside the Twitter Blue subscription will lose it eventually, he has previously stated.

"As we test and learn, there will be no changes to accounts on Instagram and Facebook that are already verified based on prior requirements, including authenticity and notability," said Meta.

Meta, whose shares have rebounded in recent weeks, is also reeling from a harsh markets response to its grand metaverse vision. The company, which has laid off about 11,000 employees in the past two months, has pledged to cut down its spending on the metaverse ambitions. It's reportedly planning another layoff round, soon.

"The thing about religion is that it requires a leap of faith. Belief in something that you may not ever be able to conclusively prove. And there will be moments that will test that faith, moments that make you question everything you had previously accepted as fact. Dramatics aside, 2022 was a challenging year for believers in the House of Zuck with many pushed to the brink or throwing in the towel culminating in the capitulation we saw last quarter," analysts at Bernstein wrote in a note this month.

"But it appears that Meta has found their own religion on efficiency/profitability and investors now find a leaner, sharper company before them."

Earlier this month, TechCrunch reported that code found in Instagram's mobile app indicated the company was preparing to test a paid subscription, similar to Twitter Blue. The company had declined to comment at the time.