Elon Musk has long been in love with the letter X.
Now he’s ditching the Twitter brand and iconic blue bird in favor of X as part of his effort to turn his $44 billion acquisition into something that’s truly his.
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Musk’s vision for X is something like China’s WeChat, a super app that people can use for entertainment and buying goods and services online, in addition to posting updates and messaging their friends. But the rebranding comes after months of erratic behavior by the world’s richest man that has alienated users and alienated advertisers, leaving Twitter in troubled financial shape and increasingly vulnerable to competition.
Destroying an iconic Internet brand is “extremely risky” at a time when rival apps like the new Instagram Threads and smaller startups like Bluesky are luring users, said Mike Proulx, an analyst at Forrester.
Musk “has single-handedly erased more than fifteen years of a brand that has secured its place in our cultural lexicon,” Proulx said in an email.
A company spokesman had no comment for this story.
This is not an entirely surprising move. Musk had already converted Twitter’s corporate name to X Corp, itself a subsidiary of X Holding Corp, as revealed in a court filing in April. Musk said last October, just before he bought Twitter, that he viewed the $44 billion deal as an “accelerator to create X, the app for everything.”
The letter X features prominently in the name of Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX. And more than two decades ago, X.com was the name of Musk’s payments company, which eventually became PayPal through a merger with a competitor at the time.
Name changes have become common among prominent web companies. Facebook is up Meta at the end of 2021 and Google accepted Alphabet pseudonym six years earlier. In those cases, however, the newly named parent companies retained the branding of their core services, so Facebook users and Google searchers could continue to do their jobs without interruption.
Musk seems to be betting that he can get rid of Twitter altogether. Over the weekend, he unveiled the new X logo and said in a tweet that “soon we will be saying goodbye to the twitter brand and gradually to all birds.”
Linda Iaccarino, who Musk hired as CEO in May, said in an email to employees Monday that the company “will continue to delight our entire community with new experiences in audio, video, messaging, payments, banking — creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services and opportunities.”
Success in this mission is easier said than done.
Musk’s desire to turn X into a super app requires “time, money and people” that Twitter “doesn’t have anymore,” Pruks said. Earlier this month, Musk said Twitter had suffered a 50% drop in ad revenue and that it needed to “get cash flow positive before we have the luxury of anything else.”
Some advertisers have become concerned about promoting their products on Twitter due to reports showing a rise in hate speech and racist and offensive comments on the platform, as documented by numerous civil rights groups and researchers.
Musk has tried to offset some advertising decline with a premium subscription service. But at $8 a month, the company will need tens of millions of subscribers to make up for the losses.
Those advertisers who remain on the platform must now adopt new jargon. People and businesses around the world know messages on Twitter as ‘tweets’. Like Kleenex, Twitter was able to develop a recognizable brand that immediately resonated with consumers, an achievement that any corporate marketing team would celebrate.
Ralph Schackart, an analyst at William Blair, told CNBC last week that his team of analysts “didn’t hear anything” from advertisers they surveyed as part of a recent survey of the digital advertising market that would indicate those firms have increased their spending on Twitter. Meanwhile, there are signs that the overall digital ad market may be improving, according to research by William Blair.
Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg said in an emailed statement that the name change marked “a dark day for many Twitter users and advertisers” and “a clear signal that the Twitter of the past 17 years is gone and won’t be coming back.”
“Twitter’s rebranding is a reminder that Elon Musk, not Threads or any other app, is and always has been the most likely ‘Twitter killer,'” Enberg wrote.
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