Twitter turned 10 years old in March, a landmark that has been followed by an onslaught of changes to the platform including longer tweets and an algorithmic timeline. But Tuesday’s announcement is by far the biggest yet: Account verification will soon be opened up to the masses, allowing anyone with a Twitter handle to apply for the coveted blue checkmark usually reserved for high-profile individuals such as celebrities, politicians, and members of the media. From the press release:
"We want to make it even easier for people to find creators and influencers on Twitter so it makes sense for us to let people apply for verification," said Tina Bhatnagar, Twitter's vice president of User Services. "We hope opening up this application process results in more people finding great, high-quality accounts to follow, and for these creators and influencers to connect with a broader audience."
Back in 2009, Twitter was the first social network to enable the verification of an account—but in the seven years that followed, the process of getting your account verified has remained vague, complicated, and often unsatisfying. As a social media editor, I’ve been witness to the extravagant opaqueness of the process—it took close to three months before I got a response to my request to be verified, and another three before I was actually given a checkmark—and even then it was completely out of the blue. If you ask people in the media how and when they got verified, the general answer will be that it was a crapshoot.
Some people dismiss the checkmark as being an unnecessary division of celebrities and normal people, or of being an elitist way of saying you’re too good to interact with everyone else. But being verified isn’t just a status symbol for those roughly 187,000 individuals that have been deemed important by the Twitter gods. The real, tangible value of being verified is that it grants you the option to filter out the trolls and spam accounts that often plague those in the public eye. Without the option to shut that stream off, one tweet going viral can kick off an endless stream of commentary and hate speech. While for some odd, attention-seeking ducks this is an exhilarating thing, it can also be overwhelming and subsequently has been the basis for several recent high-profile exits from the Twittersphere. With the recent launch of Twitter’s off-platform app Twitter Engage, a checkmark-carrying individual is now also able to customize her view of her own content. It also lets users track what sort of influence they’re driving among their followers—an added benefit for someone trying to build a public reputation without the backing of a large institution or an agent.
It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, that Twitter would seek to remedy one of its most haranguing functions in the most democratic way possible: by opening it up to everyone, and allowing anyone to submit an application for verification. There will undoubtedly be a whole new group of people who are unhappy with how the process rolls out and, very likely, with the time it takes for an application to be considered.
To apply, follow the steps outlined on Twitter’s FAQ page, which include describing your impact on the field you work in, a company affiliation, and in some cases providing government ID. If you’re rejected right off the bat you can apply once more 30 days after your denial. There’s no indication of just how generous Twitter will be with broadening the scope of their verified users, but at least Twitter’s trying to make it better for everyone, and make it a little easier to prove yourself in an arena where it’s very, very easy to get drowned out if you don’t make enough noise.
The good news is that Twitter’s definitely going to create some jobs out of this. In the coming months, we’re absolutely going to see a newly generated niche market of professional Twitter verification application writers claiming an absurd success rate with their custom-tailored applications. On the other hand, that also means that there will be a small, sad group of verification application readers in a room somewhere at Twitter HQ who have to read all of what humanity thinks about themselves (and why they deserve to be verified).
Kudos to Twitter for not running away at the thought.