Twitter Rebrand: Musk Finally Finds a Use for x.com

Ben Moss.
July 24, 2023

After months of speculation, unprecedented user drop-off, and reported billion-dollar losses, Elon Musk’s Twitter adventure plumbed new depths by changing the platform’s name to X and adopting a new, more masculine, more aggressive logo.

Twitter Rebrand: Musk Finally Finds a Use for x.com.

Initially, there was perverse enjoyment in watching an incredibly privileged person held to their word, lose a few billion, and get humbled a little. But it’s starting to feel like either this is a $44bn tax write-off, or Musk has been swallowed by his ego and doesn’t have anyone on staff brave enough to say “no” to him.

Musk, who owns SpaceX, and recently launched xAI, has been seeking a side project for his x.com domain name — which, to be fair, is a cool domain — and it looks like he’s found one in the social-network-formerly-known-as-Twitter.

Elon Musk’s X Account

Musk has been talking up a “do everything” app for some time and suggested that Twitter was a useful stepping stone before he acquired the platform in March. By all accounts, it is phenomenally hard to turn a profit as a social network, and the plan to recoup Twitter’s $44bn price appears to be to create an app that’s about more than micro-blogging. According to social-network-formerly-known-as-Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino:

X is the future state of unlimited interactivity – centered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities. Powered by AI, X will connect us all in ways we’re just beginning to imagine.

Well, there’s nothing like a focused mission statement to guide product strategy.

Musk has plenty of acolytes, and they will point to China’s WeChat as an example of a do-everything app that works. However, WeChat is largely successful in China because it’s operating in a territory that restricts its competition.

We’ve all got a domain name or two stashed away that we’re convinced will make a great project if we find the time. And the aspiration to create a new utility app is fine. Even the logo — an X with medium contrast and an outline style — is OK. If you were being really sycophantic, you could even call it Art Deco. It’s undoubtedly better executed than the majority of new logos, not least Musk’s xAI logo that was revealed last week.

The problem isn’t the new name and logo; it’s the brand recognition that is almost impossible to recover. Millions of websites now need to be persuaded to replace the highly-recognizable bird with a ‘close’ icon.

You have to ask, what was Musk buying when he took over Twitter? If it wasn’t the staff (many of whom have been fired), and it wasn’t the platform (which forms a fraction of his plans), or the established brand (which is now dead), what did $44bn actually buy?

As always, the answer is users. 354 million of them. That’s 82% of PayPal’s user base and 350% of Threads’ users (despite it piggybacking Instagram).

Make $125 out of each account, and he’s into profit. Maybe he’s a genius, after all.

Ben Moss

Ben Moss has designed and coded work for award-winning startups, and global names including IBM, UBS, and the FBI. When he’s not in front of a screen he’s probably out trail-running.

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