The iconic blue bird is no more. Twitter on Monday rebranded to X, part of owner Elon Musk’s long-held vision of eventually building an “everything app” that not only acts as a social media forum, but also a place for banking, payments, multimedia content and more. The model is one that is popular in other markets, including China, but has yet to take off in the U.S.
“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,” Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino posted in a tweet Sunday. “Powered by [artificial intelligence], X will connect us all in ways we’re just beginning to imagine.”
Our headquarters tonight pic.twitter.com/GO6yY8R7fO— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 24, 2023
While the switch-up is clearly intended to ignite fresh excitement around Twitter, it comes as another disruption to a platform that has struggled to find its footing under Musk, whose freewheeling leadership style has driven away advertisers in droves and sparked frustration and confusion among users. The move risks putting Twitter in an identity crisis amid a proliferation of direct competitors, including Meta Platform’s recently launched Threads, Bluesky and Mastodon.
“Tweeting” and other Twitter parlance has become well-established internet shorthand in the same way many people substitute “Googling” for searching, even on rival services. Putting the focus on X might dampen some of that built-in familiarity, according to analysts. Some estimates have suggested Twitter could lose billions of dollars in value from the pivot, according to Bloomberg.
“By changing Twitter’s app name, Elon Musk will have singlehandedly wiped out over fifteen years of a brand name that has secured its place in our cultural lexicon,” said Mike Proulx, vice president and research director at Forrester Research, in emailed comments. “This is an extremely risky move because with ‘X,’ Musk is essentially starting over while its competition is afoot.”
A nail in the coffin?
For now, the changes to Twitter are mostly superficial. Twitter.com is still active and appears to function as usual, but with a sharp black X in the top-left corner where the platform’s avian logo used to roost. Some other digital assets are updated and Twitter’s offices are in the midst of an X-themed makeover, a process that has encountered its own hiccups in another sign that Musk’s implementation strategy has been slapdash.
That said, the rebrand isn’t totally out of left field. Musk has been fixated on the “X” concept stretching back to his PayPal days, and in April informed corporate partners he was changing the formal name of the company he acquired last year for $44 billion from Twitter, Inc. to X Corp. Over the weekend, the Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur teased the new X logo, apparently crowdsourced and subject to further refinements.
Twitter has been searching for ways to diversify beyond text-based microblogging since well before Musk took the reins. Ill-fated bets on livestreaming, audio spaces and stories-like “Fleets” failed to gin up fresh revenue in the days when the firm was publicly traded. Implementing the X brand might be a way to herald a fresh chapter for the platform and further enshrine a new era under Musk.
“All of the commentary I’m reading is focused on the overnight abandonment of billions in brand equity,” said Jake Hancock, brand strategy partner of creative agency Lippincott, in emailed comments. “But I don’t view the name change as the moment of death — that moment has long passed. The Twitter brand has lost far more of its equity over the past few months than it did yesterday.”
Musk in May appointed NBCUniversal ad guru Yaccarino as Twitter CEO to win back ad spending, which has been more broadly depressed due to a rocky economy. Twitter’s ad revenue has been down about 50%, per Musk’s own admission, and ramping up additional channels like commerce and payments could, theoretically, boost business. But those are also costly, technologically complex and time-intensive tools to build out. Companies with far deeper coffers and more positive public sentiment have struggled to successfully translate the WeChat blueprint.
“While Musk’s vision is to turn ‘X’ into an ‘everything app,’ this takes time, money, and people — three things that the company no longer has,” said Forrester’s Proulx. “Disenfranchised Twitter users will increasingly turn to Threads while Musk’s company continues to lose money. Simply put, X’s runway is coming to an end.”