Jul 25, 2023 - Technology

Scoop: Inside Musk's plan for an "everything app" to replace Twitter

The new branding, unveiled Monday. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images

Elon Musk's bet-the-house, against-the-odds gamble on Twitter is about to get substantially riskier — with exponentially higher stakes.

Why it matters: Musk is obsessed with killing the Twitter name, and transforming the platform into a merger of a moneyless marketplace + public square + video content factory — his everything vision for an everything app.

Fast forward one year: Twitter will no longer be Twitter, or even a simple platform for argument and information sharing. It will be X, a Musk-run social universe that pulls together 24 years of his ideas and wildest fantasies.

  • In Musk's random tellings, it will be Twitter + Substack + YouTube + PayPal + Amazon + TikTok + WeChat + Baidu — all rolled into one universe marked by one letter: X.

Reality check: Musk has been talking a good game about wanting to build new things on top of the old Twitter. But in the nine months he has run the place, he has done little of that.

Behind the scenes: Walter Isaacson spent almost three years with Musk — sometimes for 12-hour stretches, day after day — for a stunningly detailed book, "Elon Musk," coming Sept. 12.

  • Isaacson told Axios that Musk has been plotting the X rebranding for more than nine months — since before signing the paperwork to buy Twitter.
  • "He said it can be a trillion-dollar company — easily," Isaacson said. "This is an idea he has thought about for 25 years — a financial platform that helps anyone profit from creating content."
  • "He feels it can transform journalism by offering an alternative to subscription models, where people can just make easy payments for whatever strikes their fancy."

In Isaacson's book, he reports Musk told him two weeks before taking over Twitter in October that he was going to change the name to X.com.

  • Musk has been obsessed with killing the bird logo since the day he first walked into Twitter's San Francisco headquarters, with Isaacson in tow.
  • "When he first walked in, it was like a hardscrabble cowboy walking into a Starbucks," Isaacson recalled. Conference rooms had names like Aviary, Tern, Bluebird, Canary and Mallard.
  • Musk said: "There are too many birds here."

Between the lines: To many, the bird was witty and jaunty — a clever play on the company's name and function. To Musk, it was a sign that employees weren't thinking big enough, and didn't have a burning sense of mission.

  • "He pulled all the woke T-shirts out of the cabinets, and scoffed at the notion of psychologically safe workplaces," Isaacson said, describing Musk wandering the floors of his new company.
  • "It was like watching a movie on fast forward," said Isaacson. "I could see him getting more and more frustrated with the culture."

Musk said: "We have to replace this with a maniacal sense of urgency."

  • On the first full day of the X rebranding, the bird-themed conference rooms had already been renamed to eXposure, eXult and s3Xy, the N.Y. Times reports.
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