Twitter’s rebrand is an X from me

Does anyone actually want an “app for everything”?
Now Reading:  
Twitter’s rebrand is an X from me

What's going on?

I want to say I was shocked when I woke up to articles about Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg challenging one another to a cage fight, but I wasn’t. I had been worried there would be no drama when Love Island finished but I think it’s safe to say Musk’s  recent movements have been continuously giving soap opera energy.

His latest? Rebranding Twitter to X.

The fact Musk wanted to give Twitter a refresh makes sense. The social landscape has shifted massively in recent years, with the rise of platforms like TikTok and BeReel and the development of household platforms like Meta rebranding and shifting towards creating an ecosystem (the Fediverse). 

But I was pretty surprised when I found out Musk has been laying the groundwork for the name change for a while (he formed a new parent company, X Corp., for the transaction when he purchased Twitter last year) because the rebrand felt so erratic and un-considered.

All you have to do is have a click through 'X' itself (or read any major publication ever) to see the total bewilderment that everyone is experiencing. Bewilderment about the name, about the rebrand and about him as a leader. Is it his erratic tendencies (changing the Twitter logo to a  dog meme associated with the memecoin -Dogecoin, or greeting everyone in Twitter with a sink before sacking half of the company)? Is it his divisive and thoughtless comments (like saying Coronavirus was 'dumb', likening the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau to Hitler and tweeting that ‘pronouns suck’)? Or is it the clunkiness of the rebrand? If you type “Twitter” into Google, you still get this strange amalgamation of the Twitter and X branding together. And the Twitter name or logo still lives in the social menu of most websites in the world.

A rose by any other name sometimes doesn’t smell as sweet

A big question is whether the name X will stick. Twitter isn’t the first company to  rebrand: Amazon was once Cadabra, Netflix once Kibble and Tinder, Matchbox. The difference is Twitter is so completely ingrained in our everyday lexicon and part of pop culture (it’s literally in the dictionary). To throw away seventeen years of such strong brand recognition is a very bold move. Especially when the jury is still out on whether or not people will actually call it X. Most people I know (even in the tech world) still call Meta Facebook. As Channel 4 found out - it's not always easy.

X as a name is actually very tricky. It’s difficult to search, it doesn’t comfortably fit into sentences and it doesn’t really mean anything. Twitter meant something - with its bird-related vocabulary the brand was centred around conversation. I really can’t imagine saying “did you see Cardi Bi’s X last night?” or “let me show you the X”.

And in addition to the name being awkward - the letter ‘X’ also has strong adult content connotations. This hasn't gone unnoticed by X users:

To make it worse, Twitter Blue – the monthly subscription service – has been changed to 'X Premium'. This paired with the new brand slogan of 'blaze your glory' gets a bit tekky.

It's safe to say Musk has got a bit of a thing for the letter X and has been trying to make it happen for a while. He has a space startup called SpaceX, an AI company called X. AI and one of his kids is called X Æ A-Xii. No really.

It’s giving:

But good branding isn’t about personal preference. It's about creating a name that is useable and relevant. In 1997 Musk founded, which was later bought and rebranded to PayPal. PayPal is far more catchy as a name and does what it says on the tin. Would PayPal have been as successful if it was called We’ll never know - but I'd put my money on, probably not.

One thing is for sure though, the name alone won't be enough for people to jump ship. Culture moves so fast and in a week, people will be on to the next drama.

But the shift in platform capabilities or features could be.

Do people want an app for everything?

Musk has been heavily influenced by WeChat and wants to build a super app that will allow users to do everything from sharing social media posts, ordering dinner and transfering money. It's true that we are definitely seeing big companies diversifying and growing their offering - for example Amazon’s platform now includes  pharmacy services, medical consultations, grocery delivery and content streaming. 

But whether people want to have their banking in the same place they share photos is undecided. We're seeing increasing scrutiny over the power of Big Tech and data breaches, especially in the US. One of the biggest hurdles of all would be regulatory. We’ve seen regulators in the US and EU discussing laws that would further restrict the sharing of user data between companies and this doesn't look like it’s slowing down.

People don't really trust global corporations like X and Meta. If you sent a survey round and asked if people would be uncomfortable with one business owning all of their data - I'd guess most people would tick "yes". The reality is - that is the principle. And when it really comes down to it, most people just want want is convenient and easy. There are already so many platforms we use everyday that hold our data. Most people don't know what kind of data these companies are even taking from us and we tick "yes" to things we don't properly read. Even when we know these companies have had data breaches. But in the end, does it actually stop us using them?

We’re creatures of habit.

People argue that we will end up with a super app because of the success of WeChat in china. But the difference is, China has become completely accustomed to WeChat (which realistically is more like an operating system than an app) as it's what they have always known. But in the West, we have never had this model. So we've had time to trial thousands of different apps - developing our preferences and switching from destination to destination. I think people appreciate dedicated and specialised apps for different purposes. We see users holding preference between Uber and Bolt, or Monzo and Revolut, and we know the behaviours across platforms like Tiktok, Twitter, Instagram and BeReel are diverse and ever-changing. And whilst there would be utility in being able to use a single, integrated payment system everywhere - we basically have that with Apple Pay and Google Pay. 

the big question is, do we need a super-app, or ARE our phones already the super app?

We’ll see how things play out over the next year. Will the name stick? Do people want one app for everything? And if they do - do they want Musk to create it or will Zuckerberg beat him to it? I'd put my money on Zuckerberg for the super app (X ultimately gets undue attention for its size - it’s got about 300m users whereas Meta have billions).

But I'm not sure about the fight.