X seems to be Elon Musk's answer to everything. It's the name of one of his first start-ups, his son's nickname, part of the name of his space empire SpaceX and, now, his vision of the future for Twitter.
The famous little blue bird, symbol of the microblogging site since its birth in 2006, flew away Monday, July 24... to make way for the X so dear to Elon Musk. In parallel, the X.com internet address now redirects to Twitter, the social network bought in October 2022 by Elon Musk for $ 44 billion.
https://t.co/bOUOek5Cvy now points to https://t.co/AYBszklpkE.
Interim X logo goes live later today.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 23, 2023
He sees X's everywhere
The famous multibillionaire had prepared the ground during the weekend, assuring the 150 million Internet users who follow him that he was ready to propel the site into the era of X in 24 hours. So it's done with this new logo.
Elon Musk actually wanted to turn Twitter into an X for a long time... without going into details. In October 2022, a few days before finalizing the acquisition of Twitter, he had already suggested that the 24th letter of the Latin alphabet represented the future of his latest acquisition.
A change that is not surprising when you know that the famous multibillionaire sees (and puts in) X everywhere... for more than twenty years. Thus, without X, there might never have been a PayPal, the famous online payment solution. Indeed, the second start-up that the businessman founded in 1999 was called X.com and referred to one of the first attempts to develop an online bank.
In 2000, Elon Musk agreed to merge his site with that of his main rival at the time, called Confinity, and one of whose co-founders is another controversial star of Silicon Valley: Peter Thiel. The latter took advantage of Elon Musk's honeymoon with his first wife Justine Musk in September 2000 to oust him as CEO, take his place and reappoint X.com in PayPal.
A putsch that propelled X.com into technological limbo until 2017. That year, PayPal finally allowed Elon Musk to buy back this domain name for a sum that has never been made public.
Elon Musk then took six years to find a reason to be in X.com. Indeed, until this weekend, the site displayed a simple blank page.
Twitter is far from the only aspect of Elon Musk's empire to be in the grip of X. It was no coincidence that, in 2002, he decided to call his space exploration company SpaceX. Rebelote in 2015 when the boss of Tesla launches the Model X, the first SUV of the brand of electric cars. At the time, Elon Musk said he opted for this name because he found that this letter made his vehicle more "sexy".
From his son to WeChat
He also let the X into his private life since this is the nickname of his son, born in 2020 and whose full name is X Æ A-XII. Indirectly, this letter also hovers over the life of his daughter - Exa Darth Sideræl - whom her parents have been calling "Y" since 2023.
But with Twitter, the "muskian" obsession with the X has gained substance. The transition from the little blue chick to the letter of the alphabet would be a prelude to the creation of a universal application. "The acquisition of Twitter will accelerate the implementation of X, a super-application," Elon Musk tweeted in October 2022.
The first step of this plan was realized in March 2023, when the whimsical boss of the social network created X.corp. This new structure is supposed to oversee all Elon Musk's efforts to achieve the creation of this "universal application". X.corp is currently integrating Twitter and X.ai, a new artificial intelligence company.
To understand Elon Musk's attraction to universal applications, we must look towards China. The former Middle Kingdom is also the empire of super-apps. The most famous is WeChat, a service that in the West is described a little too quickly as the Chinese version of WhatsApp.
In reality, WeChat is a digital Swiss Army knife. "This application can be used to communicate, share content, buy products, send money, and even file for divorce," says Hamza Mudassir, co-founder of British start-up consultancy Platypodes and professor of entrepreneurial strategy at Cambridge University.
These are catch-all services that are excessively popular in China and "more widely in Asia," says this expert. WeChat, for example, has nearly 1.3 billion users. These apps are so central to digital life that authorities can let them handle much more formal services like paying fines.
X, the great unknown
An economic model that has enough to make Elon Musk salivate in search of additional sources of income. "Twitter has shown its limits to attract advertising revenue and we must therefore think about diversifying," says Hamza Mudassir.
But for the West, the principle of a "super-app" is a big leap into the unknown. None of the web giants has yet ventured into this field. "In China and Asia it has long been accepted as going hand in hand with mobile internet," Mudassir said. Nothing like this in the United States or Europe where consumers are used to using an application for each use.
This is the Amazon model: the American giant "has diversified - food sales, e-readers, film development, music distribution - but has planned an application for each use," recalls Hamza Mudassir.
For the Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post, the Western Internet user would be more reluctant than his Asian counterpart to put in the hands of a single application all this data, from his shopping habits to his relationship problems or his taxi rides.
Elon Musk seems to think that time is over. For him, the North American or European Internet user would be ready to take the plunge "provided that he finds it simpler than going from one app to another for all his online procedures," says Hamza Mudassir.
In any case, Twitter's advertising revenue is in free fall. In these conditions, "we might as well try the WeChat model," says this specialist in business strategy. Even if, as often, X represents a great unknown.
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