Will X go subscription-only? Even the CEO can’t say

X CEO Linda Yaccarino has dodged questions on whether the social network will become a subscription-only service in a testy interview at the Code 2023 conference.

A fortnight ago, X owner Elon Musk stated that the company was “moving to having a small monthly payment for use of the system” during an interview with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Forcing users to pay a monthly subscription fee was “the only defence against vast armies of bots,” Musk declared.

Pushed to elaborate on the subscription plans during her Code 2023 interview, Yaccarino dodged the question, even casting doubt on whether Musk announced the plans in the first place.

What Linda Yaccarino said in Code 2023 interview

“Elon Musk announced you’re moving to an entirely subscription-based service, nothing free about using X,” interviewer Julia Boorstin said, having already been asked to repeat her question by Yaccarino.

“Did he say we were moving to it specifically, or is he thinking about it?” Yaccarino interrupted.

“He said that’s the plan,” said Boorstin, to which Yaccarino replied, “Yeah”.

“So did he consult you before he announced that?” Boorstin asked.

“We talk about everything,” Yaccarino replied, before meandering into a long answer about why Elon Musk hired her.

Boorstin tried once more to get Yaccarino to answer, asking if she was consulted on the subscription plan and pointing out that – unlike at rival Meta – X’s product teams report directly to Elon Musk, leading to accusations she’s a “CEO in name only”.

A visibly angry Yaccarino replied: “I don’t care what the structure is at Meta, but who wouldn’t want Elon Musk sitting by their side running product?”

When Boorstin pointed out that a few members of the audience had raised their hands, Yaccarino replied: “There may be a few show of hands to get the cute chuckles you’re getting, but I’d say the percentages in this room are about 99% who would say no to that, and maybe 1% of personal opinion.”

Tense Yaccarino interview

The Yaccarino interview was tense from the beginning after the Code 2023 organisers scheduled a surprise appearance from Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, just an hour before her interview. Roth tore into the social network and Musk, claiming the service was bleeding users and advertisers, claims that Yaccarino denied in her own interview.

When pushed to provide stats to counter Roth’s claims, Yacarrino fiddled with her smartphone before claiming that active daily users were at “200 [million], 250 something like that”. Boorstin claimed that when Musk took over Twitter, the site had 237 million active, monetisable users.

What should Elon Musk do with X? Read James O’Malley’s thoughts here: Elon Musk has captured the bird: now he must use the API to set it free

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Barry Collins

Barry has 20 years of experience working on national newspapers, websites and magazines. He was editor of PC Pro and is co-editor and co-owner of BigTechQuestion.com. He has published a number of articles on TechFinitive covering data, innovation and cybersecurity.