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Twitter becomes X: why?

Twitter becomes X: why?


Elon Musk has renamed Twitter as X. Could this be more than just a rebrand?

It’s the start of a new era at Twitter: the social media platform has replaced its iconic blue bird logo with a black X, and the website X.com also redirects to Twitter. The company’s owner, Elon Musk, said posts will now be called “Xs” rather than “tweets”.

Twitter’s CEO Linda Yaccharino says X will become much more than a text-posting platform. 

“X is the future state of unlimited interactivity – centred in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities,” she tweeted on 23 July.

X is Musk’s favourite letter. It’s in the name of his businesses SpaceX and X Corp; his company Tesla has a car called the Model X; and X is even his nickname for his first son with the musician Grimes.

X.com was also the name of one of his first major business ventures, back in 1999. That company went on to become PayPal just a year later, and its origins can tell us a lot about what Musk is trying to do with Twitter today.

His original plan for X.com – the 1999 version – was to create a “one-stop everything-store for all financial needs”. That wasn’t quite what PayPal became, but Musk never lost his vision for a “super-app”.

“Everything apps” are multi-use mobile and website apps. A popular example is WeChat, which has over 1.3 billion monthly users in Asia. It began as a messaging and a photo sharing app, but now includes everything from payments to games, online shopping, and even medical appointments. 

No one has managed to replicate the success of these apps outside of Asia and Musk is well aware of that. He has often said he wants to “copy” WeChat – but he may even want to outdo it. He says X will be “Twitter + Substack + YouTube + PayPal + Amazon + TikTok + WeChat + Baidu” – all in one place.

It’s no secret that Twitter has been struggling since Musk’s dramatic takeover last year. Advertisers have taken fright, the company is in heavy debt and its cash flow is negative. Some users also say the platform is getting worse because of changes to the algorithm and Musk’s decision to slash Twitter’s workforce including people who did things like content moderation.

It’s a delicate time for the company so throwing away the blue-bird logo, which is recognised the world-over, is a huge risk.

Today’s episode was written and mixed by Patricia Clarke.