Apps

Is Instagram considering paid verification? Code reveals references to a ‘paid blue badge’

Comment

Image Credits: TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

New references in Instagram’s code suggest the company could be developing a paid verification feature following the rollout of a similar system at Twitter under Elon Musk. Recently discovered code snippets reference explicitly refer to a “paid blue badge” and a new subscription product, a developer has discovered. The same reference also appears in the latest build of the Facebook app, indicating paid verification could be offered across Meta’s platforms if the product continued to be developed.

The discovery was made by developer and reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, who has previously spotted a number of new Instagram features before they launched, including the in-app scheduling tool that launched in November and the newer QR code sharing features. He’s also regularly spotted other internal prototypes, like Instagram’s Candid Challenges and features in development with Twitter.

Typically, Instagram confirms its smaller tests or prototypes when discovered, but in the case of the paid verification option, the company chose not to comment.

Given Paluzzi’s track record, however, it’s worth at least speculating why Instagram could be weighing a decision around paid verification.

Specifically, Paluzzi shared with TechCrunch screenshots in the app’s code that included lines referencing “IG_NME_PAID_BLUE_BADGE_IDV” and “FB_NME_PAID_BLUE_BADGE_IDV.” He suggested that, given the context, “IDV” could mean identity verification — as that’s also a known meaning for the acronym.

Image Credits: code screenshots from Alessandro Paluzzi (opens in a new window)

In addition, the developer told us he found other references to a new type of subscription product that hadn’t been there previously. The same references were also in one of the latest builds of the Facebook app, he noted.

Still, Paluzzi cautioned that there’s nothing yet visible in the app itself beyond these small code references, so we can only speculate on these findings for the time being.

Still, it’s fun speculation to be had, especially considering the misery that is today’s Instagram verification system.

The subject of numerous complaints over the years, Instagram’s verification system is obtuse, complicated, and seemingly random, due to its reliance on automation. Although Instagram in 2018 began allowing users to request verification, the overall system itself hasn’t changed much, despite Instagram head Adam Mosseri’s promise that account verification would be a focus of improvement back in 2020.

You can now apply to get a verified badge on Instagram — here’s how

Currently, the coveted blue badge is still only awarded to high-profile individuals, celebrities, and global brands or entities. But everyday users and smaller creators have long sought similar recognition. That’s led to a multimillion-dollar shadow market for verification where people pay thousands of dollars for the blue badges through backchannel means. Last year, in fact, a ProPublica investigation revealed one of the largest Instagram verification schemes to date, which resulted in Meta having to remove illicitly gained badges from hundreds of accounts. In other words, there’s clearly demand for paid verification.

That’s something Elon Musk believes as well, as he quickly made paid verification a key selling point for Twitter’s revamped Twitter Blue subscription. Unfortunately, Twitter’s implementation was not well thought out, leading to widespread impersonation on the network as users changed their names and profile photos to well-known individuals or brands, which then caused serious mischief. Twitter had to almost immediately pause paid verification and retool, ultimately relaunching with gold badges for businesses and additional verification steps.

Though Twitter’s initial attempts to monetize verification were chaotic, that doesn’t mean the idea itself has no value. Plus, advances in AI could help improve the verification process. Already, Instagram uses AI in other parts of its app — like finding which accounts belong to kids who lied about their age as well as content recommendations.

In addition, Twitter isn’t the only major social app testing consumer demand for paid subscriptions. Snapchat also caters to its power users with a Snapchat+ subscription that offers a laundry list of perks and extra features. During this week’s earnings call, the company announced it had grown Snapchat+ to over 2 million subscribers in just over half a year’s time.

If it chose, Instagram could offer a subscription bundle to its own power users, which could include a paid blue badge and other features. While it’s not clear at the time that’s what it has in the works, it would be interesting to see such a product come to fruition.


 

Sarah Perez can be reached at sarahp@techcrunch.com or 415.234.3994 on Signal.  

More TechCrunch

London-based fintech Vitesse has closed a $93 million Series C round of funding led by investment giant KKR.

Vitesse, a payments and treasury management platform for insurers, raises $93M to fuel US expansion

Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…

Zen Educate raises $37M and acquires Aquinas Education as it tries to address the teacher shortage

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

Aurora and Volvo unveil self-driving truck designed for a driverless future

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €284M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

2 days ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses