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Twitter's days are numbered
As the platform is rebranded as X, its slide into irrelevance continues
If you paid close attention over the past few months, you might have noticed that in the footer of Twitter’s website copyright was no longer attributed to Twitter, Inc., but to X Corp. After changing the company name back in March, it was only a matter of time before brain genius and manchild Elon Musk took the next step and slapped his favorite letter on the social media website he’s actively destroying while believing he’s saving it. That moment finally came this weekend.
On Saturday, Musk began tweeting about changing the platform’s name to X and bidding “adieu to the twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds.” Finally, he announced to his followers that “if a good enough X logo is posted tonight, we’ll make go live worldwide tomorrow.” That set off a wave of replies with some of the worst graphic design you’ve probably ever seen in your life, but eventually one caught Musk’s eye.
Sawyer Merritt, cofounder of a clothing company and longtime member of Musk’s cult, posted a video of a white X on a glitchy dark background. Musk then reposted it from his account, had a highly pixelated version of it projected onto the side of Twitter HQ in San Francisco on Sunday, and slowly started rolling that version of the X out across the platform.
In a later tweet, Merritt explained the logo was designed by Alex Tourville for a show they used to host on David Sacks’ Callin platform called the X Pod that discussed — or, probably more accurately, praised — Elon Musk and his corporate ventures. Tourville wrote a longer tweet on the backstory of the X Pod, explaining the X in its logo is the Unicode character 𝕏 (U+1D54F). That could cause some issues for Twitter/X Corp now that it’s using the character for its logo, as it can’t enforce ownership over the symbol, though Musk says it’s an “interim” logo.
Twitter is a mess
The rapid and chaotic shift from Twitter to X shows us a few things. First, there’s absolutely no plan at X Corp. Musk had clearly been planning to make this change at some point, as biographer Walter Isaacson confirmed in an excerpt from his forthcoming book, but didn’t bother to put together a team at the company to make a strategy or a cohesive visual identity. Instead, he just decided on a whim on Saturday that it was time and later told his underlings to start changing the logo on the service, but the color scheme is still blue and the word “tweet” is still all over the place. The company’s main account is still @Twitter, even though its display name is X.
But it also shows us that Linda Yaccarino, the company’s supposed CEO, has virtually no power and doesn’t have any real say in major company decisions. As Musk was tweeting about the changes, Yaccarino’s account was silent for hours before sending out some empty corporate speak on Sunday. Her gamble to get a CEO position she could later use to shift into another company may not play out as she originally planned when she decided to leave a good position at NBCUniversal.
Most of all though, the move shows once again how absolutely clueless Musk is about the company and how he couldn’t make a good decision if its future depends on it. On a whim, Musk is throwing away brand recognition that’s been built up over 17 years. Twitter’s user base is relatively small compared to other social media platforms, but everyone knows what it is, that influential people use it — or at least used to — and what the word “tweet” refers to, other than a bird chirp. Instead, Musk wants us all to refer to it as X and tweets as “x’s.” Good luck with that.
Fulfilling a childish dream
As I explained back in February, Musk has been obsessed with calling a company X.com for more than two decades. In 1999, he founded an online bank with that name which eventually merged with Peter Thiel and Max Levchin’s Confinity, whose main product was PayPal. Musk was named CEO of the combined company and tried to mess with PayPal’s code, but also change its name to align with the X brand even though, as Isaacson confirmed, “Focus groups showed that the name X.com … conjured up visions of a seedy site you would not talk about in polite company.”
Eventually, Musk was ousted because his poor decisions jeopardized the PayPal product. Once Thiel replaced him, X.com’s financial services were wound down and the entire company was eventually renamed PayPal because the product was successful and users trusted its brand. But Musk never gave up on X.com.
In 2017, he reacquired the X.com domain name from PayPal for an undisclosed sum and when he finally bought Twitter, he said it was an “accelerant” to creating the “everything app” that he imagined X would be. Showing how disconnected from reality he truly is, Musk recently said in an interview that he believes X “would serve people’s financial needs to such a degree that over time it would become maybe half of the global financial system.” For someone prone to exaggeration, even that’s quite a claim.
In short, Musk wants to create a US equivalent of the popular Chinese app WeChat with social media, banking services, shopping, delivery, and much more. But let’s all be honest: there’s no chance in hell that Musk actually pulls it off, no matter how much runway his investors will grant him. Instead, this whole saga shows how how genius status was always more of a myth than a reality.
The downward spiral continues
The world of 2023 is very different than 1999. Many countries have great digital banking services with easy money transfers, and it’s not hard to send money internationally either. Plus, we already have the other services that Musk is planning to offer from other companies. Why would we want them in one app, controlled by a man with increasingly extreme right-wing politics, build on a technical foundation that everyone can see is deeply flawed because of how much he’s gutted the workforce and infrastructure? Anyone who does their banking through Twitter/X is a fool, a sycophant, or some combination of the two.
Musk might think he’s setting Twitter up for its bright future as X, but he’s got it all wrong. He refused to learn from the last time he tried to make X a reality, and now he’s repeating the mistakes of the past while being surrounded by advisors who won’t dare tell him when he’s wrong. We know how the thin-skinned narcissist reacts when people dare to contradict him.
Ultimately, this is another chapter in the story of Twitter’s demise. The website won’t crash tomorrow, but as Musk continues to turn the platform into something entirely different, destroying the experience that attracted users in the first place, they’ll continue using it less, moving to other platforms, and leaving it to become an echo chamber for Musk’s cult and the extreme right-wing users Musk has empowered since taking over. I’m not convinced there’s a Twitter replacement coming, but that doesn’t mean Twitter — or X — is going to survive.
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