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    5. To understand Musk's plan for world domination, one must start ..

    Technology

    To understand Musk's plan for world domination, one must start with X.

    Another week, another eccentric statement from Elon Musk about the future of Twitter. Or is it supposed to be the future X now?

    On Sunday afternoon, he revealed that the site he bought last year for $44 billion will henceforth be called X. He changed his profile to X.com and showed a new logo gracing the walls of Twitter's California headquarters: a narrow white parallelogram bisected by a single white line.

    “I look forward to working with Linda [Iaccarino, CEO of Twitter] to transform this platform into X, the app for everything,” he wrote, adding later, “soon we will say goodbye to the Twitter brand and, gradually, to all the birds.”

    Musk left a more detailed account of Yaccarino, who constantly finds herself in a chaotic pursuit of her boss. “It is extremely rare, in life or in business, to get a second chance to make another big impression,” she wrote.

    “Twitter has made a huge impact and has changed the way we communicate. Now X will go further, transforming the global city square. X is the future of limitless interactivity focused on audio, video, messaging, payments and banking, creating a global marketplace of ideas, products, services and opportunities.”

    This eccentric statement came as no surprise to Musk watchers. Since buying the social network last October, he has undertaken a series of drastic and bizarre reforms, including laying off 80% of the staff and allowing Donald Trump to return to the platform.

    Advertisers and users have been critical of the changes, especially the removal of the blue tick and the announcement of a paid tier. Meanwhile, Musk's rival Mark Zuckerberg has unveiled rival app Threads.

    Musk has also been obsessed with the letter X for at least a quarter of a century. Writing is a constant that recurs throughout his varied activities. So what is its meaning? In 1999, 27-year-old Musk founded X.com, a financial services and payments company. He reportedly liked the title despite its hints.

    According to Julie Anderson Ankenbrandt, a colleague who attended the meeting at the Silicon Valley cafe where Maxk discussed possible names, the waitress had the final say on whether to call him x,y or z.com.

    Eventually, X.com merged with PayPal, the name its co-founders had always favored, and which was eventually bought by eBay. In 2002, when Musk founded his space exploration company, he named it SpaceX.

    “The X in SpaceX stands for Exploration,” says Eric Berger, author of the SpaceX story. ty

    “The X in SpaceX stands for Exploration,” says Eric Berger, SpaceX history writer. “What that means on Twitter is much less clear to me.”

    Most dramatically in 2020, Musk announced that he and his girlfriend, singer Grimes, have named their daughter X Æ A-12. Grimes said the X stands for “unknown variable”. As the name would have been illegal under California law, they later changed it to X Æ A-Xii Musk with X as the name. (X's sister, born in 2022, was named Exa Dark Sideæl Musk, but was recently changed to Y.)

    Speaking about the company's rebrand on Sunday, Musk said that X embodies “all of our imperfections that make us unique.”

    One gets the impression that the attraction of X to Musk may lie in what it doesn't mean. X is an open question; a company called Twitter with a bird logo is connected to its past. A business called X can be anything or anything. Similarly, a child named, say, Edward or Elon belongs to a fixed global population of people with that particular name. It means something. The child is rooted in a certain story.

    The child named X Æ A-Xii has fewer associations, which can console her when her lunch money is stolen from her. Musk's grand plan is to help humanity leave Earth and live on Mars, not take root.

    In 2017, he bought the rights to X.com from PayPal. At the time, he wrote: “Thank you PayPal for letting me buy X.com! No plans right now, but it has a lot of sentimental value for me.” Shortly after buying Twitter, he hinted at the company's direction when he incorporated it into X Corp's holding company. “Buying Twitter is accelerating the creation of X, the universal app,” Musk said last October. Photo: Paul Sakuma

    Not everyone is convinced that the grand theory works. “We're making the mistake of thinking he has a plan,” says Bruce Daisley, a culture consultant who served as Twitter's vice president until 2020. — He has no plan, not a single site was ready for change. It was a whim. From start to finish, Musk has been keen to burn any evidence that anyone was [on Twitter] before him because it serves as a reminder to people that someone other than him helped create his product.”

    By getting rid of the word Twitter, Daisley notes, Musk and company are doing away with one of the few company names that has become a verb: we say “tweet” like we say “vacuum.”

    “It speaks to a fragile ego and a terrifying branding instinct,” he says. “Do you think news outlets should say “someone tweeted on X” or “disassembled X” (or whatever the clowns invent)? No, they will say “someone posted it on social networks.” All brand equity will disappear.”

    The “universal app” model is basically WeChat in China, where customers can perform all kinds of activities – and transactions – through a single platform, where one app replaces several. But it remains to be seen whether the rest of the world is ready for the “one app does it all” business model.

    Technology companies have also been known to change their names as they grow and provide more services.

    “[This kind of rebranding] is hardly unknown in the tech world,” says Paul Armstrong, aspiring tech consultant and founder of the TBD Group. “Facebook and Google did something similar when they became Meta and Alphabet. It's not uncharted territory, but the way Musk does things makes people unhappy. Clearly, Twitter is not gaining momentum as it should.”

    'Whatever else you criticize Musk for, you can't say he doesn't have ambition or a desire to shake things up' Credit: Taidgh Barron/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock. However, the move from Twitter to X remains a mystery.

    The brand may be confusing in the short term, but the brand is another example of Musk's ambition, according to Rory Sutherland, author and VP at advertising agency Ogilvy. I don't know if he's using X as a variable or intends to call it an X application – he's obviously very whimsical. I agree with him that Twitter has more potential value than actual value. But rebranding has a very colorful history. A big part of a brand's value is its fame.”

    Now Musk has shot a bird and tried to ban his app – time will tell if it works or not.

    X could also mark where Musk finds gold for his future business. Or it could be another milestone on the road to Twitter becoming a former business.

    Either way, Musk hasn't stopped being interesting.

    What do you think of Elon Musk's latest move? Tell us in the comments below

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