- Elon Musk has discussed his plans for X, an “everything app,” in Twitter and in private texts.
- The billionaire has drawn inspiration for the idea from the popular Chinese super-app WeChat.
If Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter closes, the billionaire will have taken the first step toward something he calls “X,” his vision for a new kind of social media platform that most in the US haven’t experienced before.
An “everything app,” as Musk puts it.
The Tesla CEO has said the acquisition will act as “an accelerant” to creating X — jump-starting the process by three to five years.
Musk has been talking about building X for months. In August, when a Twitter user asked him whether he had considered creating his own social platform, he replied, “X.com” — a web domain he bought over five years ago. At Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting that same month, Musk said he had “a pretty grand vision” for X as “something that would be very useful to the world.”
While it’s unclear whether Musk plans to turn Twitter into X or use it to build an entirely new platform, the billionaire has dropped several hints regarding his plans to shake up the world of social media.
Here’s what he’s said publicly — and privately, via recently released text messages — about the idea.
A new super-app
X wouldn’t be the first app trying to do a bit of everything. In fact, Musk indicated in May might look for inspiration from Tencent’s WeChat, a Chinese social media juggernaut that’s one of the largest super-apps in the world.
WeChat acts as an all-encompassing service — from messaging and video chatting to video games, photo sharing, ride services, food delivery, banking, and shopping.
“If you’re in China, you kind of live on WeChat,” he said. “It does everything — sort of like Twitter, plus PayPal, plus a whole bunch of things, and all rolled into one, with a great interface. It’s really an excellent app, and we don’t have anything like that outside of China.”
At his first town hall with Twitter staff, the billionaire said there’s a “real opportunity” to create a similar app outside of China.
“I think if we could achieve that, or even close to that with Twitter, it would be an immense success,” he said.
Matt Navarra, a top social media consultant, told Insider it wouldn’t make sense to gut Twitter and turn it into a super-app, but it could become a sort of “mini-app” within Musk’s larger platform.
Private texts about a blockchain-based platform
Musk has also discussed creating a social media platform built on a blockchain. The billionaire is known for his love of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Dogecoin.
In April, the billionaire privately outlined his idea for a “Doge” social media platform in texts to his younger brother, Kimbal Musk. The messages were made public as part of Musk’s court battle with Twitter.
“I have an idea for a blockchain social media system that does both payments and short text messages/links like Twitter,” Musk texted. “You have to pay a tiny amount to register your message on the chain, which will cut out the vest majority of spam and bots.”
Musk said the site would have a “massive real-time database” that would keep permanent copies of messages and followers and a “Twitter-like app on your phone” that can access the database in the cloud.
A subscription model
Musk’s idea for a blockchain-based platform feed into some of his discussions around Twitter’s revenue model.
The billionaire has repeatedly expressed his distaste for ads, but advertising makes up the vast majority of Twitter’s revenue. In a since-deleted tweet from April, Musk said the company should exist without ads.
Instead, Musk has talked about making money from Twitter via alternative methods, including charging some users to be on the site. While Twitter has already begun charging some users for special features through Twitter Blue, the Tesla CEO has been critical of it. In April, he said that users of the premium subscription service should pay $3 per month and immediately get a verified account.
The billionaire has also noted the app could help foster payments directly to users, though Twitter launched a “Tips” feature last year that includes an option to pay users with Bitcoin.
“It’s important for content creators to have a revenue share,” Musk said at a May event for the “All-In” podcast.
The billionaire has also discussed changing Twitter’s algorithm and making its code open source, as well as adding an edit button — a feature the site recently enabled for Twitter Blue subscribers.
An emphasis on free speech
Whatever Musk builds, expect it to have a far more free-wheeling free speech policy than Twitter today.
The billionaire has been critical of Twitter’s ban on some users, including its permanent ban on former president Donald Trump following the insurrection at the US Capitol. Musk has said he will re-instate Trump if he goes through with the purchase.
Social media expert Navarro said companies are unlikely to want to advertise next to posts that could be labeled as unsavory, but noted it could be a good move for Twitter to diversify its revenue sources.
A battle against bots
One thing is clear throughout Musk’s dealings with Twitter — the billionaire’s social media platform will be tasked with eliminating scam accounts.
Musk has called bots on Twitter the “single most annoying problem” and made the number of scam accounts on the site the centerpiece of his attempts to wiggle out of the purchase months ago.
In an April 14 interview at TED 2022, Musk cited this issue as the first thing he would change as Twitter’s new owner — it’s fair to expect whatever X ends up being to also focus on eliminating bots.