Twitter’s rebrand to “X” is more than a name change, as Musk looks to push the app into a variety of new industries, including finance.
By Khadijah Khogeer
Apple, Amazon, eBay, Uber, Spotify, PayPal, Venmo, Meta, Electronic Arts and Nintendo — that’s just a sampling of the companies Elon Musk could soon be competing with.
Twitter’s rebrand to “X” is more than a name change. Musk has trumpeted the move as the biggest step yet in the transformation of what was once a humble microblogging app into an “everything app.” He has shared snippets of his vision for this app dating back to his initial acquisition of the company, pointing to China’s WeChat app as something of an inspiration.
“You basically live on WeChat in China because it’s so usable and helpful to daily life, and I think if we can achieve that, or even get close to that at Twitter, it would be an immense success,” Musk said in June 2022 during his first meeting with Twitter employees.
It’s a vision that was echoed by CEO Linda Yaccarino on Sunday.
“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,” Yaccarino, who previously led ad sales at NBCUniversal, wrote in a post on X. NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News.
Building an everything app comes with any number of challenges, ranging from fierce competition from well-resourced rivals and upstarts to regulatory barriers and consumer preferences.
“Since we already have these apps that already have millions of users and a reasonable amount of engagement, what is that novel that Twitter will offer us that we won’t get already from all these other apps that we have?” said Anjana Susarla, a professor of responsible artificial intelligence at Michigan State University.
Everything apps, as Musk likes to call them, are popular in Asia. In China, WeChat integrates instant messaging, social media and payment services all into one app. Other super apps such as Grab in Singapore and Gojek in Indonesia have also been successful in Asian markets. While super apps are ubiquitous in Asia, the model has yet to gain a foothold in the U.S. and European markets, according to CB Insights, a company that analyzes tech industry trends.
Maybe the biggest challenge will be in making Twitter a financial powerhouse, something Musk has mentioned many times.
Davidson Oturu, a managing consultant for financial technology startups, said that X would lag behind Apple’s established financing services, such as Apple Pay and Apple Pay Later.
“Being able to get people to leave Apple and the ecosystem it has created to come to Twitter, to carry out banking and financial transactions, there’s going to be a stretch,” he said. “Fintechs find it difficult to move customers who have been using banking for a long time to come onto their platforms. So it’s really going to be quite difficult to make people switch brands.”
Musk’s everything app would also face tighter regulations on data privacy in the United States and Europe, according to a Deloitte report on Western super apps. Oturu said China has a “very opaque system around data privacy rules. You can’t compare that to the United States and parts of the Western world.”
He added that consumers could also be wary of such an app.
“If I’m going to use X and I want to have it as an everything app where I bank, shop, chat, buy products and services, I’m going to be sharing a lot of data on that platform. I don’t know how comfortable people are going to be putting all of that data into an everything app,” Oturu added.
Musk’s moves toward an everything app come as the company continues to struggle. Twitter’s advertising revenue — its main source of income — was down by almost 50%, he said earlier this month.
Oturu noted that Musk’s experience with PayPal, which formed after a merger between Musk’s online bank X.com and software company Confinity, could be “an arguable point” that he could build payment features into the micro-blogging site.
Susarla said X’s existing user base was its one potential to transition into a super app.
“There is already a broad set of people who are using Twitter or X,” she said. “And I think they will still continue using it.”