Elon Musk kills the bird

The smartest insight and analysis, from all perspectives, rounded up from around the web:

Farewell, Twitter, said Oliver Darcy at CNN. This week, “the text-based social media platform that played an outsize role in society by serving as a digital town square was killed by its unhinged owner, Elon Musk.” Musk officially changed the company’s iconic bird logo to an “X” as part of a sweeping rebrand. “X might resemble Twitter,” at least initially, but “it is not the same platform it was” before Musk bought it for $44 billion last October and “quickly decapitated the former leadership and threw the company into chaos and turmoil.” Despite the rebrand, X will still inherit all of Twitter’s problems, including fleeing advertisers and new competition from Mark Zuckerberg and Threads. Maybe we can find closure now that we can “separate Twitter from what Musk has transformed it into.”

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Indeed, Twitter as we knew it is dead, said Mike Allen in Axios. The new name is the first step in Musk’s bet-the-house gamble of “transforming the platform into a merger of a moneyless marketplace + public square + video content factory — his everything vision for an everything app.” Think Twitter + Substack + YouTube + PayPal + Amazon + TikTok + WeChat + Baidu, all rolled into one. According to biographer Walter Isaacson, who’s writing a book about Musk, he has been “plotting the Twitter rebranding for nine months.” Actually, “X” has been “a consistent presence in the billionaire’s business brandings and personal life for decades,” said Rachel Shin in Fortune. In 1999, Musk founded X.com, an online banking startup, which merged with PayPal. He later repurchased the domain X.com from PayPal in 2017, seemingly “for purely nostalgic purposes.” Now we know he had a plan for it all along.

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The bird had to go, said Peter Franklin in UnHerd. Twitter could be “the perfect launchpad” for an everything app if it’s not tied to its reputation as a microblogging site. It has “hundreds of millions of users in multiple countries, a super-accessible user interface, and a public profile that, unlike most social networks, does not limit its appeal to narrow demographics.” Those are strong “everything app” credentials. Except that plan hasn’t worked for other “companies bigger, richer, and smarter than X,” said Dave Lee in Bloomberg. The conditions that make super apps work in Asia don’t apply in the U.S. market, where “consumers aren’t (for the most part) un- or under-banked, or lacking in credit options.” And “even companies that dominate in many areas — like Google — have learned that consumers don’t want everything locked” into one place, due partly to the simple fact that “apps that try to do too much become cluttered and slow.”

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“I guess my question is, what was he paying for?” said Matt Levine, also in Bloomberg. “So far, Musk has done a lot to make Twitter less useful but nothing, as far as I can see, to make it more useful.” Adding a fintech element to Twitter’s messaging capability is interesting, in theory. But all his moves suggest Musk wanted something completely different from Twitter, and he could have built that for far less than $44 billion. 

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