Elon Musk has a penchant for the letter “X.” He calls his son with the singer Grimes, whose actual name is a collection of letters and symbols, “X.” He named the company he created to buy Twitter “X Holdings.” His rocket company is, naturally, SpaceX.
Now he also apparently intends to morph Twitter into an “everything app” he calls X.
For months, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has expressed interest in creating his own version of China’s WeChat — a “super app” that does video chats, messaging, streaming and payments — for the rest of the world. At least, that is, once he’s done buying Twitter after months of legal infighting over the $44 billion purchase agreement he signed in April.
There are just a few obstacles. First is that a Musk-owned Twitter wouldn’t be the only global company in pursuit of this goal, and in fact would probably be playing catch-up with its rivals. Next is the question of whether anyone really wants a Twitter-based everything app— or any other super app — to begin with.
Start with the competition and consumer demand. Facebook parent Meta has spent years trying to make its flagship platform a destination for everything online, adding payments, games, shopping and even dating features to its social network. So far, it’s had little success; nearly all of its revenue still comes from advertising.
Google, Snap, TikTok, Uber and others have also tried to jump on the super app bandwagon, expanding their offerings in an effort to become indispensable to people as they go about their day. None have set the world on fire so far, not least because people already have a number of apps at their disposal to handle shopping, communicating and payments.
“Old habits are hard to break, and people in the U.S. are used to using different apps for different activities,” said Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst at Insider Intelligence. Enberg also notes that super apps would likely suck up more personal data at a time when trust in social platforms has deteriorated significantly.
Musk kicked off the latest round of speculation on Oct. 4, the day he reversed his attempts to get out of the deal and announced that he wanted to acquire Twitter after all. “Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app,” he tweeted without further explanation.
But he’s provided at least a little more detail in the past. During Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting in August, Musk told the crowd at a factory near Austin, Texas, that he thinks he’s “got a good sense of where to point the engineering team with Twitter to make it radically better.”
And he’s dropped some strong hints that handling payments for goods and services would be a key part of the app. Musk said he has a “grander vision” for what X.com, an online bank he started early in his career that eventually became part of PayPal, could have been.
“Obviously that could be started from scratch, but I think Twitter would help accelerate that by three to five years,” Musk said in August. “So it’s kind of something that I thought would be quite useful for a long time. I know what to do.”
But it’s not clear that WeChat’s success in China means the same idea would translate for a U.S. or global audience. WeChat usage is almost universal in China, where most people never had a computer at home and skipped straight to going online by mobile phone.