When Twitter launches the latest iteration of its verification plan, you’ll begin seeing three different colored checkmarks.
Twitter users could easily get whiplash trying to keep track of the platform’s plans for verified accounts. The latest involves a set of three colored checkmarks that will indicate (for the most part) the reason an account was verified.
A verified account carries a little verification badge next to its handle. Before Elon Musk purchased Twitter, the company had an internal process for verification. To obtain a blue checkmark, you had to either be famous or legitimately represent a company or organization. You could also be a public figure or a journalist. Twitter’s verification process helped ensure the person, business or organization named in the account was the real deal.
Let’s start with a quick review.
One of Musk’s first actions was to declare the verification system bogus. “Bogus,” as you’ll see in that link, wasn’t exactly the word Musk used. Musk seemed to think, as many hopeful users do, that it was too difficult to achieve verification under the old system.
But that’s the whole point. When you’re using a blue checkmark to indicate that someone has actually verified that an account is held by the actual notable person or organization it claims to be held by, you shouldn’t want it to be an easy process.
Musk’s solution, then, was to allow anyone to get the blue checkmark if they subscribe to Twitter Blue. The price for that service jumped from about $4 to about $8. That idea, predictably, prompted an outcry: if you hand out that verification to anyone who’s willing to pay several bucks a month, you immediately render verification useless.
As if anyone should have needed proof, The Washington Post demonstrated how easy it was to get fake accounts verified.
There was then talk that you’d be able to visit any Twitter profile and click on the blue checkmark for information. It would either tell you that the checkmark came from an account that was held by a notable or that it came from a Twitter Blue subscriber. That would put the onus on the wrong person — the user — rather than the platform itself.
The Verge reported that Twitter brought back the gray checkmark for “official accounts” in mid-November. But that gray checkmark seemed to appear and then disappear a few times.
Musk pressed on, announcing a Nov. 29 launch date for the new plan — I lost track of whether it’s Plan B, Plan C or Plan D.
New and improved…in living color?
Then, on Thanksgiving Day, the Post reported the latest iteration of its verified plan would involve a fleet of colored checkmarks.
This time, we face the probability of three colors for those verification checkmarks. No longer will the light blue check stand by itself. It will be joined by gold and gray versions, according to tweets from Musk himself.
The gold checkmark will go to companies. The gray checkmark will go to governments.
The blue checkmarks will stay with individuals. Musk noted individuals can also qualify for a “secondary tiny logo” that would denote they belong to an organization.
He added that all verified accounts “will be manually authenticated” before the checkmark appears.
It appears that Twitter decided to delay the launch again, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2.
What we don’t know…this time around.
We don’t know what kind of “manual authentication” will take place. Given the number of Twitter employees who were recently shown the door, and the resulting slowness of response to Twitter support tickets, there’s no telling how they’ll get around to manually authenticating anything.
Will it be the same process as before? Well, that’s doubtful if Musk dislikes the old system so much.
Musk tweeted that all verified users — individuals — will have the same blue checkmark. Well, that’s back to the same problem that launched this drama. If you can’t differentiate between legacy “authenticated” accounts and new “authenticated” accounts, the blue checkmark returns to being useless…at least until we know what the process looks like.
Will Twitter leave the explanatory modals in place for the blue checkmarks? Will we still be able to click on the badge to determine if they’re an old-school or new-school check? That’s not clear, either.
If they want to be transparent, those little modals should stay in place.
But if they really want to be transparent, the legacy checkmarks for individuals should switch to black and the subscription-based checkmarks — “manually authenticated” or not — should keep the blue.
If we’re going to use colored checkmarks, let’s allow the checkmarks for individuals to use colors to make that relationship as clear as possible.
Offhand, I’d say there’s one other question they haven’t answered. Consider organizations like the Salvation Army or even my alma mater, the University of South Carolina. Both of their accounts are verified. Both accounts, at the moment, indicate they hold the blue checkmark because they are “notable” in one way or another.
What color checkmark will they get? They’re not “individuals,” so blue wouldn’t be a fit. They aren’t governments, which should rule out the gray. Are they companies? If you broaden the definition to include organizations and institutions of higher learning, perhaps. If not, they don’t get the gold, either.
One of USC’s colors is garnet: How about a garnet check for schools? I can think of at least one school that might have an issue with that, but they would probably get over it. Eventually.
Maybe charities — since they’re actively trying to get people to donate money — should display a green badge.
If we’re going to rely on colored checkmarks to make things clear, let’s go all out. If even colored checkmarks do not, on the surface and at face value, identify the source of the tweets, are we better off than we were before this foolishness began?
And in case you’re curious, I’m still on Twitter at @patricksplace. I don’t plan to leave the service. But I also have no plan to pay $8 per month, either. I’ve gone 14 years without the blue checkmark. I’m not going to start paying just to have it now.
Feel free to follow me there if you’re willing. For what it’s worth, this blog also has a Facebook page.