Whether you like it or not, Twitter now has a dumber name—X.
Since 2012, Twitter has had a well-defined mascot advertising the internet’s town square. Cultural osmosis has taught you exactly what its bluebird represents alongside the meaning of a tweet, retweet, and post. Ubiquitous branding like this obviously can’t be purchased and has to be cultivated from years of success and societal impact. But the buyer of Twitter and destroyer of quality, billionaire Elon Musk, disagreed and has decided in all his almighty knowledge that the instantly recognizable bird is a dead meme and needs to go.
On July 23, Musk tweeted that soon he would “bid adieu to the Twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds” before later tweeting a reveal for his new version of his $44 billion acquisition, X. With an X projected on the side of the former Twitter headquarters, we are all left to wonder why any of this is even happening and what dangers are hiding beneath the surface.
What is X?
X seems to be Musk’s attempt to reshape Twitter into his image while doing away with the attributes that made the site successful to begin with. Musk has been hinting since the purchase that he wants to create an “everything app” called X, even changing Twitter Inc’s legal name in April to X Corp. He wants X to be a social media platform, messaging system, and even a banking app.
“X would serve people financially to a degree that it would become, maybe, half of the financial system,” Musk told Twitter influencer Zuby Music in an interview in June. “It would be the most efficient database for that which is money.
Musk tweeted on Sunday that the company’s visual rebranding is meant “to embody the imperfections in us all that make us unique. However, the latest step towards his X-unified vision is sucking the color and magic out of Twitter. When you load up Twitter on your computer, the blue bird logo on the upper left has been replaced with a bland “X” logo that a first-year marketing student would be embarrassed to hand in as homework.
Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino tweeted that the X app will be “centered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking,” “powered by AI,” and “will be the platform that can deliver.” Ignoring that Twitter already did all of these things (besides being a bank) before the acquisition, the whole statement seems like a jumbled-up thread of buzzwords meant to build hype without much else.
Especially since, like most of Musk’s rash decisions for the site, it seems there hasn’t been enough time for engineers to implement his decree fully. The mobile app is still called Twitter, and the bluebird remains its logo and mascot in many places throughout its website, staying put amidst corporate dismantling (at least for now).
Musk also tweeted that “x.com now points to twitter.com.” However, while some users are being redirected to the correct Twitter homepage, some are reporting that the x.com website redirects to a GoDaddy holder page with nothing but ads. …Weird.
Wait, This Looks Familiar
Musk has a weird affinity for using the 24th letter of the alphabet as a brand. He’s admitted to liking the letter and has used it on his cars, spaceship, and even his youngest son. It even goes as far back as 1999, when Musk created the X.com banking start-up that eventually merged with another company Confinity, forming PayPal. Musk clearly held onto that love for the letter name, acquiring the X.Com domain in 2017.
Even with as much love as Musk has for that X, it’s still unclear if it will be enough to overshadow that steadfast Twitter branding. Using tweets and retweets makes less sense now—what else should we call them? X-files? X-dumps? X is already a letter that doesn’t fit into that many words, it’s why it’s worth so many points when you use it in Scrabble.
Moving past the simple logistics, it’s also dangerous to have Musk building a platform he wants his version of society built around. Twitter has become a more spammy, transphobic, and racist place online since his take over, reshaping the app into a platform where Musk’s form of bigotry can thrive. Far-right icons have reached wider audiences and are even starting to get paid for Twitter posting. It’s become more difficult for everyone to use the platform without paying Musk, who is now limiting posts and even direct messages seen by users not paying for Twitter Blue.
Now imagine if that same sort of societal pressure and need to pay up was built into your banking or messaging apps.
Musk is a charisma-less Tony Stark but has the capital to shape the world in his image. Will his X mark the spot of an all-encompassing app, or will it be the wild goose chase that finally sinks his ship?