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It’s been a rough few months for the technology industry. Stock prices have plummeted. Meta, Amazon, Google, Spotify, and Twitter have all laid off a sizable chunk of their workforce (the list goes on, too). Everybody is talking about how ChatGPT and other generative-AI chatbots are role-playing as Skynet, and the older tech giants are feeling out of step. But whereas Google and Microsoft are deep into the chatbot arms race, Meta looks like a late-aughts tech dinosaur.

It’s time to shake things up, to turn the ship around. To innovate. Meta’s big, new idea: Charge people for basic support features and … a blue check mark.

On Sunday, Facebook and Instagram announced Meta Verified, a subscription service that will give benefits to people who pay a fee and confirm their identity. The perks include algorithmic boosts to posts, human customer service, and added protection from impersonation. Meta’s paid verification follows Elon Musk’s controversial decision last year to include its famous blue check marks in its Twitter Blue subscription package. Not long after Twitter’s decision, Tumblr launched its own paid verification plan, which was initially meant as a joke mocking Musk’s ham-fisted business strategy but ended up increasing the company’s revenue. Netflix is also looking to squeeze extra money out of its viewers with its plan to end password sharing across different households.

Taken together, the vibe feels a bit like trying to use a familiar service and getting hit with a pop-up that says, “Thank you for using Web 2.0. Your free-trial period has ended!”

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