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Elon Musk's X: A Bold Reimagination of Twitter
Elon Musk has bought and is working to rebrand Twitter, arguably crushing 17 years of brand equity. What exactly is he thinking?
We have arrived at an interesting place in human history where what we might call sense-making apparatuses in our society and culture are breaking down. In fact, many would argue that they have broken down. The political parties, the universities, and indeed the education system at large have stopped making sense. One might consider this list incomplete without at least a wag of the finger in the direction of journalism as well.
There are many figures, some of which may be surprising, that are attempting to recapitulate an environment based on order and logic for us. Piers Morgan, for instance, would have been thought of as an unsalvageable leftist ideologue when he was bullying people on CNN a decade ago for taking pro-gun stances. Now, he has become one of the more entertaining and ardent defenders of things like freedom of speech and the axiomatic necessity to defend it, most specifically and vitriolically against what can be called the far or “woke” left.
One such figure who has emerged from this miasma of nonsense has been Elon Musk. Most know who Elon Musk is, and have heard he recently bought Twitter in a saga that has been one of the most significant news stories on the planet after Covid.
While some have criticized the Tesla billionaire for attempting to inject an inoculation against wokeness and leftist ideology into Twitter, many stand steadfast with what seems to be, at least in part, an altruistic mission. Musk, as Business Insider reported, said he bought Twitter because he was “concerned about free speech, and attacked what he called ‘groupthink amongst the media’”.
Most recently, Musk has taken Twitter through not just a rebranding of values and approach, but with an overhaul in presentation as well. Musk has changed the name of Twitter to simply “X”.
This rebranding may be recent news to you, but it was not a novel concept for Musk. In fact, the famed biographer Walter Isaacson, who spent almost three years with Elon Musk told Axios, “Musk has been plotting the X rebranding for more than nine months — since before signing the paperwork to buy Twitter.”
Musk himself tweeted (perhaps X-ed or Xeeted?) on Monday that, “Twitter was acquired by X Corp both to ensure freedom of speech and as an accelerant for X, the everything app. This is not simply a company renaming itself, but doing the same thing.”
He continued, “The Twitter name made sense when it was just 140 character messages going back and forth – like birds tweeting – but now you can post almost anything, including several hours of video.”
The controversial SpaceX mogul closed the post by simply writing, “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.”
There you have it. The bird has flown the coop and Musk more than slightly implies a pivot as far as his business strategy is concerned.
In terms of what his plans are moving forward, CNBC reported that Musk wants to turn Twitter, now X, into an “everything app”. The everything app or “super app” refers to an app with multiple functions that the user can enjoy without having to close or leave the app.
He also appointed media veteran Linda Yaccarino as the company's new Chief Executive Officer. She tweeted this past Sunday that “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.”
Somewhat uneasily, Musk seems to be taking some cues from China in terms of aspiration, citing the massively popular Chinese messaging app WeChat. The multi-functional social media app is considered to be “the biggest super app in the world”, and currently has over 1.3 billion users.
“Musk said there is no WeChat equivalent outside of China. ‘I think that there’s a real opportunity to create that,’ Musk told employees. ‘You basically live on WeChat in China because it’s so useful and so helpful to your daily life. And I think if we could achieve that, or even close to that with Twitter, it would be an immense success.’“
Make of that what you will.
So, while there have indeed been many who have criticized the decision to rebrand an extremely popular brand, it seems that there is at least an attempt to bring some sensibility back into the world. Musk said it best when he asked, “Is someone you don’t like allowed to say something you don’t like? And if that is the case, then we have free speech.”
Understanding the primacy of free speech and the vital necessity of it in a free society is fundamental to all of these sense-making networks, which explains why so many of them have broken down. Hopefully, while this corporate drama unfolds, along with it, can be at least a minor return to a world where sense may be returned, if only in lieu of a bird.