As of today (24 July) Twitter is no more. Its controversial owner Elon Musk has announced that he has rebranded the company and it will now be known as ‘X’, with the famous blue bird symbol also ditched and replaced with a white X on a black background.
The new logo, which the billionaire describes as “minimalist art deco”, was projected onto the corporate headquarters building in downtown San Francisco, for all to see.
He has also changed his Twitter bio to ‘X.com,’ which now redirects to twitter.com. and confirmed that the term “tweet” in the context of posts on the site was now redundant, and moving forward under the new identity, a post would be referred to as “an X”.
It is the latest of a series of contentious moves that the billionaire has delivered on the media platform since it came under his ownership in October 2022, when he purchased the company for $44 billion, which began with him sacking a substantial amount of the workforce. In an email to those employees still working for him, Musk confirmed the new direction they were taking. He signed off by writing: “This is my last message from a Twitter email” and attaching a salute emoji.
The new changes are a step closer to Musk’s previously stated vision for an “everything app” similar to China’s WeChat, that would combine social media, instant messaging, banking, and other ventures. This comes shortly after rival Meta successfully launched its own text-based service called Threads, which has already taken a significant number of users away and this latest decision could alienate many more.
Dangerous route to take
History is littered with rebrands that have gone horribly wrong, often led by an individual’s ego, or acting on poor advice. Very often they bring about a quick backtrack before too much harm is done, or if left too late, the unnecessary total collapse of a company.
Founded in 2006, Twitter took its name from the sound of birds chattering, and its easily recognisable branding of a light blue bird – which apparently was bought as a stock symbol for just $15 – was instantly popular.
It developed the nickname “Larry” which Twitter’s co-founder Biz Stone said, was a tribute to basketball star and Boston Celtic’s legend Larry Bird. Since the news broke people have been mourning the loss of the iconic image, including designer Martin Grasser who said: “Today we say goodbye to this great blue bird” and former Twitter executive, Esther Crawford, posted: “Corporate seppuku: destroying your own product or brand.”
Concerns for criminal impact
Business commentator Justin Urquhart Stewart made the observation that Twitter’s loyal but ageing base, would not take the changes well and its younger generation of users would move onto other apps, if they hadn’t already, because the platform did look a bit old-fashioned.
The fast pace of this change has also prompted some security concerns, with cyber advisors highlighting the opportunity it will present for phishing. Criminals will latch onto this change to prey on those users not fully conversant with their unscrupulous actions.
Chief Exec full of optimism
Chief Executive Linda Yaccarino was predictably enthusiastic, considering that she was poached by Mr Musk only last month. She posted: ‘X’ is here! Let’s do this.” She then confirmed that ‘X’ will be powered by AI and said it was on the cusp of broadening its scope and transforming the global town square.
“It will connect people in ways that we are only just beginning to imagine,” she stated, before adding: “We see ‘X’ as the future of unlimited interactivity, centred in audio, video, messaging, payments, banking and e-commerce, creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities.”
Twitter has suffered repeated technical failures since the 52-year-old Tesla founder and SpaceX owner bought the platform, not helped it could be assumed by the sacking of much of its staff within weeks of his arrival.
He recently introduced charges for previously free services and admitted that Twitter had lost roughly half of its advertising revenue since he took control. However, possibly due to his incredible wealth, he seems to care little.
Following an Asian model
In Asia super-apps such as China’s We Chat, PayTM in India, and GoJek of Indonesia, play a vital part of everyday lives of its citizens and Mr Musk has a clear vision for ‘X’ to have the same impact.
It is a risk, but if just a couple of additional services, such as shopping or payments, become a hit, they could be all that’s needed to make his new version an improvement on what came before. It will though, need to quickly catch up with the many alternatives that are already out there.
What is the X factor?
It becomes yet another X in a long list for Mr Musk. One of his first business ventures in 1999 was known as X.com, which was an online banking platform. Three years on, he allowed the site to merge with PayPal and be bought by eBay.
He retained the ownership of the X.com domain name, which now redirects to Twitter. He is also chief executive of SpaceX, the commercial American aerospace company founded in 2002 and recently launched his long-awaited artificial intelligence start-up: xAI, which he sees as a challenger to ChatGPT.
Seek pastures new?
It is inescapable to see this move as a potential act of self harm, Fundamentally, he has an environment where his site holds a captive audience and it could take a huge investment, possibly costing billions, to re-educate people and convince them to stay. If the previous version was perfect for them, then in many cases they may well take the opportunity to go elsewhere.
Massive gamble or brilliant step forward?
Mr Musk will no doubt say those are not the type of customers he sees using his e-commerce platform and is looking to create something far more modern and ahead of the curve.
It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out, but for now there are many shrewd commentators who see this as “x-tremely” risky and are wondering if this is too much too soon and a clear case of… if it isn’t broke… don’t fix it.