Trusting X

This week, Twitter switched its logo to a rather spare X, and yesterday, both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times wrote yesterday about Elon Musk’s reported plan to turn X into a so-called “everything app” combining social media, messaging, payments, and perhaps more. 

Notably, both think turning Twitter into a super app is far from a slam dunk. 

Musk undoubtedly envisions his new X app occupying the same space that Tencent’s WeChat holds in Asia. However, both The Journal and the Times point out that WeChat benefited from excellent timing launching just as China was going digital, primarily via the smartphone. Because WeChat was the only game in town, Chinese consumers became used to doing everything inside one app. By contrast, U.S. consumers have long relied on single-purpose websites and apps.

Also, both the Journal and the Times believe U.S. regulations could significantly slow down Musk’s efforts to add payments and other financial functions to his app. The Journal learned that Twitter has acquired licenses in four states to operate as a money transmitter, but that leaves many more states to go. And the Times speculated that antitrust issues could slow X down, unlike WeChat, which has been actively promoted by the Chinese government. 

And finally, both publications point to the miserable track record of other apps that attempted to take on payments and other types of functionality. These include Facebook, Uber, and Snapchat.

While I agree with everything said, I think both of these articles miss an important point: Twitter/X has a long way to go to restore the trust it lost through Musk’s tumultuous acquisition of the company. According to Matthew Prince, the chief of internet services at  CloudFlare, Twitter’s web traffic is “tanking,” and Threads represents a significant threat if Meta can persuade even a small portion of its Facebook and Instagram audience to use it on a semi-regular basis. 

While Musk may have succeeded in cutting expenses at Twitter, he has also scared away brand advertisers and users through radically denegrating the platform’s content moderation capabilities.

Through rebranding Twitter and raising the possibility of relaunching it as a superapp, Musk has definitely changed the subject. But Twitter / X’s weak foundation could make it difficult for Musk to roll out the new set of services he imagines.