Twitter is dead. Long live X! Or, if you hate what Elon Musk has done to Twitter, death to X!
But what is X? Why is Elon Musk obsessed with it? What is an everything app? And what does it mean for social networking? Let’s find out.
What is X? Why did Twitter die? Is Larry the Bird OK?
Right now, X is a Twitter rebrand combined with the deafening roar of flushing billions of dollars of brand value down a toilet. Larry the Bird is gone, replaced by a Unicode character that means ‘mathematical double-struck capital X’, because someone sent it to Musk and he thought it looked cool.
Personality is being eradicated elsewhere too. Twitter was a rare example of a brand with a verb form in common usage. When someone mentioned a ‘tweet’, everyone knew which social network they meant. Now? You ‘post’. Still, at least Twitter Blue is just plain old Blue, presumably because someone convinced Musk that X Blue sounds like a porn subscription.
To drive the new branding home, Musk’s company nabbed the @x handle and subtly changed the original owner’s account to @x12345678998765. Natch, he was paid nothing. Perhaps the marketing budget had been spent on a massive X sign atop the ex-Twitter building that blinded nearby residents, until X was forced to take it down.
All of which sounds deranged until you realise this X obsession isn’t new. It’s part of Musk’s decades-long crusade to build an X ‘everything app’.
What is an X ‘everything app’? How can X do ‘everything’?
It can’t. It probably never will. Still, X’s senior figures are hopeful. Current X CEO and human meat shield Linda Yaccarino said: “X is the future state of unlimited interactivity – centered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities. Powered by AI, X will connect us all in ways we’re just beginning to imagine. […] There’s absolutely no limit to this transformation. X will be the platform that can deliver, well….everything.”
Which is corporate speak for “Elon Musk wants X to be like WeChat. Please help me. I’m trapped. I don’t even have a door handle in my office.”
If you’re wondering what WeChat is, that’s likely because you’re not in China. WeChat’s huge there. Imagine a social network with loads of other stuff glued to it. You don’t live on the internet, bouncing between services. You live inside WeChat. It’s all centralised, which in Musk’s eyes means KA-CHING!
So X as an everything app is about making money?
Yes – and in a wider sense. As outlined in expert fashion by a historian on (sigh) X, who goes by the name of John Bull, Musk has been here before. To cut a long story short, he years ago attempted to build an online bank, but his flagrant disregard for regulations caused issues. He ended up merging his concern with PayPal, wouldn’t let his dream go, tried to kill the PayPal brand and replace it with X, and was ousted. So now he’s doing the same thing, decades later, but this time with no-one to tell him no.
Musk also wants X to be somewhere people earn money. That in itself is not a bad idea. After all, YouTube pays people (after a fashion) for videos. Medium and other services provide ways to make cash from writing. But X is going about this in a very Musk way: you must be over 18 and active on the site, have at least 500 followers, and pay for Blue. Also, if previous public payouts are anything to go by, a fifth stipulation may be to X Musk’s behind, since everyone who got paid appeared to be fully Team Musk.
Yikes. Anything else we need to know before hurling X into a bin?
First, an X everything app might not be possible anyway. Even when you’ve the wealth that lets you spend $44bn on a social network, there are barriers to creating an everything app. You can’t approach it like how X approaches signage. Regulators don’t like that.
Also, people outside of the Far East aren’t excited about everything apps. Facebook sort of tried it, but just ended up welding rubbish games and a marketplace to its social network. People tend to prefer choice and multiple apps.
Beyond that, a legal fight is looming, because – hilariously – Facebook might own the rights to X for social media. And even if it doesn’t, Musk is banking on people sticking around, when he’s eroding trust, making user-hostile changes, and threatening to sue people who documented a rise in hate speech on his platform.
In all, we think it’s ironic Musk replaced a brand with personality with an icon that resembles a close button. It’s a sign. Fortunately, plenty of other social options exist if you’d prefer to be an ex-Twitter user rather than an ‘X/Twitter’ user.