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CALIFORNIA (Reuters) – Twitter updated its app on the Apple App Store on Saturday and began charging $8 for sought-after blue check verification marks, in Elon Musk’s first major overhaul of the social media platform.
The move comes a week after Musk acquired the social media company in a $44 billion deal. The billionaire entrepreneur and CEO of electric car maker Tesla ( TSLA.O ) has vowed on Twitter to cut half its staff and start charging users more.
In the update for Apple iOS devices, the $7.99 a month “sign up now” can get a blue check next to their usernames, “just like the celebrities, companies and politicians you already follow.”
Before Musk took over, the blue checkmarks next to a person’s username confirmed that the account belonged to the person or company claiming the account. It was not immediately clear how Twitter plans to verify a user’s identity beyond charging.
According to the iOS announcement, other benefits in the update include “halving ads,” the ability to post longer videos on Twitter, and priority ranking for quality content.
Twitter and Musk, via Tesla, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Twitter’s new boss flagged updates earlier this week in his push to monetize the social media network and reduce its reliance on ads. Twitter is currently free for most users.
The new service with verification will be available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, according to Twitter’s update.
“Once we make sure it works well in early countries and translation work is done, it will roll out globally,” Musk said in a tweet on Saturday.
Musk responded to a follower’s question by saying Twitter Blue would “hopefully roll out in a month” in India.
In a separate tweet, Musk also said that “fixing search is top priority” on Twitter.
When one user pointed out that YouTube gives creators 55% of ad revenue, “We can beat that,” he responded in another tweet.
“Twitter will soon add the ability to embed long-form text into tweets, ending the ridiculousness of Notepad screenshots, followed by creator monetization for all types of content,” Musk added in a tweet.
As of Saturday, the update for Twitter Blue remained at the old price of $4.99.
Shortly after the update became available to users, Twitter’s early stage product manager Esther Crawford said the new service wasn’t live yet.
“The new Blue isn’t live yet – our release sprint continues, but some may see us making updates as we test changes in real-time,” he said in a tweet.
Earlier this week, Crawford went viral after Musk retweeted a photo of himself sleeping on the office floor at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters after the acquisition.
“When your team is pushing around the clock to make deadlines, sometimes you #SleepWhereYouWork”.