Twitter is no more. The bird is no more. The app is now called X — and it’s not just a cosmetic change either.
This week, Twitter owner Elon Musk added a new act to his running circus show and changed not only the name, but the direction of the platform he bought a year ago for a whopping $44 billion.
In this article, we’re going to explain, as best we can, the method behind Elon’s madness on this. As you’re about to find out, this change might very well be life or death for the platform formerly known as Twitter. Allow us to explain:
Not Just Social Media Anymore
The Twitter we knew was born in 2006 — almost two decades ago. That’s practically a millennium ago given how much the Internet, and society as a whole, has transformed since that George W. Bush-era year.
Twitter referred to birds making short noise at each other like a chirp. The site famously only allowed 140-character messages to be posted online — the opposite of the rest of the Internet which essentially had zero limits on posting. This forced users to be more concise with their “tweets.”
What followed was a slow but steady growth path. Twitter never became Facebook-level big, but it did carve out its niche and survived countless other social media platforms like MySpace or Google+, for example.
But in more ways than one, Twitter has outgrown its original name. Tweets are no longer contained to 140 characters or less. There’s zero cap now. Moreover, videos can be posted. Images too. But exchanging information and media isn’t the only thing Musk envisions.
In a recent tweet — if it’s still called that — Musk hinted finance is the future of X too. Here’s what the founder said: “In the months to come, we will add comprehensive communications and the ability to conduct your entire financial world. The Twitter name does not make sense in that context, so we must bid adieu to the bird.”
So why X? Welp, Musk has extensive history with the one-letter name, that also involves finance.
X Was Musk’s Former Company Name Too
Ashlee Vance wrote the go-to biography of Musk. In it, he details the entrepreneur’s come up long before Tesla and SpaceX become multi-billion-dollar behemoths.
Here’s a small recap of Musk in the late ‘90s. He and his brother, Kimbal, had just sold their first Silicon Valley venture, Zip2. It was a directory-type software sold to newspapers. Zip2 was purchased by Compaq for just over $300 million, which made Musk rich overnight.
This is where we begin to see Musk’s appetite for risk. He decided his next business venture would be in the heavily regulated world of finance. The venture’s name? That’s right — X. One letter like it is now.
X was essentially an online bank, which allowed users to send payments to each other via email. Maybe that sounds like a no-brainer idea now, but it was quite the risk then. Remember, many Internet users in the ‘90s were scared of using their credit card online in fear of hacks — little less using it completely to online bank, which X was.
X would merge a short time later with a fellow online banking competitor, PayPal, which as you know remains a big player today. Musk was originally the CEO of this new-found company. He would be ousted in short order by now legendary investor, Peter Thiel.
In March 2000, Elon Musk’s then company, X.com, merged with PayPal. Musk was the merged organization’s first-ever CEO, before being fired a short time after.
Image courtesy of LinkedIn
In the Vance biography, he details the litany of rifts Musk opened while CEO. One worth mentioning though, was the company name itself. Musk was insistent on using X, but most wanted to keep PayPal — fearing X sounded pornographic. Musk lost this battle and eventually control of the company.
The PayPal banking service would become a household name, and so would Musk. EBay bought the company, which enriched Musk even more. That cash windfall led to his bets on Tesla and SpaceX. Still, the X name and idea has never left him.
First, there’s the Tesla Model X. It’s one of four vehicles in the fleet. Each model is named after a single letter or numeral. When out together, it spells out S3XY. As you see, that X moniker comes in handy since not many words start with the 24th letter in the alphabet.
X is also the holdings company used to acquire Twitter in 2022. The letter is also found at the end of SpaceX.
Outside his business dealings, Musk birthed a song with famous singer, Grimes, back in 2020. The kid is officially called Æ A-Xii, however, he’s nicknamed X. Elon’s all encompassing love for this letter makes sense because the new X is supposed to be all encompassing in its own right too.
X Will Be An “Everything App”
The idea for this X rebrand has been brewing in the open eye. Here’s a tweet from Musk way back in October 2022: “Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app.”
This concept of an everything app is foreign to Americans, but the norm for the Chinese. WeChat is the best example of this everything app. It’s a super app that’s a one-stop shop for Chinese users, of which there are billions.
First, it’s an instant messaging app. It’s a payment-sending app. It’s a food reservation app. It’s a shortform video app. It’s a shopping app. We could go on, but you get the idea. WeChat is what you get if you combine WhatsApp, PayPal, TikTok, and whole bunch of apps into one — hence the name, “everything app.”
As you can tell, the concept makes sense on the surface. Why fumble around with a multitude of apps when you can use one? Yet, companies before X have tried and failed, mostly notable Facebook or Meta as it’s now called.
To his credit, Musk has succeeded where others have failed before — creating a litany of S3XY electric vehicles, shooting reusable rockets into space, and so forth. So we wouldn’t be quick to count him out on creating an everything app. But like everything Musk does, it sure as heck won’t be easy to achieve.