Twitter dropped a bombshell this weekend, rebranding itself as X and removing the iconic Twitter bird logo from its headquarters. Consider it the latest earthquake in Elon Musk’s ongoing quest to reinvent the platform he bought for $44 billion last year into a so-called “super app,” à-la China’s WeChat.
This shift signals Musk likely isn’t flipping Twitter anytime soon, despite earlier rumors. But transforming Twitter into an everything app faces huge roadblocks, from infrastructure challenges, to existential questions about the core identity of a platform people currently use to tweet, not shop or bank.
What will X actually do? Right now, nada new – it’s just a name change. But Musk has telegraphed wanting to make X an online Swiss Army knife “where consumers can do a lot of different things on the platform” like listening to podcasts, shopping, banking and more, explains Nii Ahene, chief strategy officer at marketing firm Tinuiti.
Twitter currently enables live audio rooms, longer direct messages and video broadcasting. If its paid subscriptions take off, it could even share revenue with users like Patreon. But successfully pivoting from a microblogging site to a WeChat-style “global marketplace” would take ages given Twitter’s skeleton crew, Ahene noted.
Musk’s X Factor
This weekend’s rebrand may suggest Musk won’t be giving up his X fixation anytime soon. The enigmatic billionaire has long clearly adored the letter X, slapping it on projects like SpaceX, xAI, and Tesla’s Model X car.
Musk even named his kid “X” – literally just the letter X. After regaining ownership of X.com in 2017, he changed Twitter’s legal name to X Corp last April. Now X.com directs to Twitter.com.
To Musk, X represents boundless interactivity and unlimited potential. He’s said he’s “very excited,” to finally realize his vision for X.com “as it should have been” using Twitter as an “accelerant.”
Roadblocks to Twitter’s Reinvention
Becoming an everything app is rife with pitfalls, from confused users to alienated advertisers. Musk may think products should sell themselves sans marketing.. But Twitter rakes in millions from big brands who likely disagree.
Expanding into shopping and subscriptions could diversify Twitter’s revenue beyond just ads. But first, X apparently needs the cloud infrastructure for an everything app – we’re talking “roughly $40 billion-plus in upfront costs”, according to Bloomberg analyst Mandeep Singh.
At its core, Twitter is still largely for tweeting. Rebranding won’t instantly make people use it to shop or bank. For now, X remains more hype than revolution, but the name change signals Musk is staying, for better or worse.
X may still have potential if Musk can transcend Twitter’s foundations. But it could also collapse from the weight of outsized ambitions.