Elon Musk has a predilection for the letter “X”. He calls “X” the son he had with singer Grimes, whose real name is a set of letters and symbols. He called the company he created to buy Twitter “X Holdings.” His rocket company is, naturally, SpaceX.
And now, it seems, it also intends to transform Twitter into an “app for everything” that it calls X.
For months now, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has expressed interest in creating his own version of China’s WeChat — a “super app” where video chats, messaging, streaming and payments can be made — for the rest of the world. Sure, that’s once he’s finished buying Twitter after months of legal battles over the $44 billion takeover deal he signed in April.
There are just some obstacles. The first is that a Musk-owned Twitter would not be the only global company pursuing this goal, and in fact would likely have to catch up with rivals already making inroads there. Next up is the question of whether anyone really wants a Twitter-based do-it-all app—or any other super app—in the first place.
Start with competition and consumer demand. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has been trying for years to make its flagship platform a destination for everything on the internet, adding payment functions, games, shopping and even dating. So far it has had little success; almost all of their income still comes from advertising.
Google, Snap, TikTok, Uber and other companies have also tried to jump on the super-app bandwagon, expanding their offerings in a bid to make themselves indispensable to people in their everyday lives. Until now, none of them has achieved a sensational success in this regard, not least because people already have several applications at their disposal to buy, communicate and pay.
“Old habits are hard to break, and people in the US are used to using different apps for different activities,” says Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst at Insider Intelligence. Enberg also notes that super apps are likely to suck up more personal data at a time when trust in social platforms has deteriorated sharply.
Musk kicked off the latest round of speculation on October 4, the day he backed down on his attempts to get out of the deal and announced that he did want to acquire Twitter after all. “Twitter buyout is an accelerator to create X, the app of everything,” he tweeted without further explanation.
But in the past he has given at least a little more detail. During Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting in August, Musk told the crowd at a factory near Austin, Texas, that he thinks he “has a pretty good notion of where to point the engineering team with Twitter to make it radically better.”
And it has given some strong hints that handling payments for goods and services would be a key part of the app. Musk said he has a “bigger vision” of what X.com could have been, an online bank he started early in his career and which eventually became part of PayPal.
“Obviously that could be started from scratch, but I think Twitter would help accelerate that in three to five years,” Musk said in August. “So it’s something that I thought would be quite useful for a long time. I know what to do.”
Associated Press writer Joe McDonald contributed to this report.