Sun. Sep 24th, 2023
Elon Musk officially kills Twitter
Elon Musk officially kills Twitter

Most viewers probably missed it, but when the film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” premiered 37 years ago, it had something that was nearly unique at the time: a post-credit scene. In it, the main character makes a return appearance, looks out at the audience, and says, “You’re still here? It’s over. Go home.”

That seemed to be the message that Elon Musk delivered to Twitter users over the weekend as he informed them that he was killing the blue bird he bought for $44 billion. In its place, Musk has dropped “X,” which he intends to turn into a platform for banking and other vaguely described activities. None of that has been built. In the meantime, he’s burning down the familiar branding, community, and functionality that gave his purchase some residual value.

Elon Musk has long had an obsession with the letter “X.” When he was one of the founders of PayPal, that’s what he wanted to call the payment service until more reasonable partners quashed the idea. Then he founded SpaceX and bought his way into Tesla, where he named the top of the line vehicle the “Model X.” And then he named his son with singer Grimes “X Æ A-Xii,” or just “X.”

But hey, it’s not a total obsession. Musk and Grimes did rename their daughter, the former Exa Dark Sideræl Musk, as just “Y.” Also, given his past naming history, English speakers can be glad that Musk didn’t rename Twitter as “Æ” so we don’t all have to spend the day arguing over how to pronounce it.

According to Musk, the name of the platform is now simply X. On X, people no longer send a tweet, they send “an X.” As of Monday, the blue bird that topped the Twitter page on the desktop application has flown the coop, replaced with a stylized X. Users will also find their experience on the platform frequently interrupted by a clumsy animation of an X bouncing around the screen. Musk has promised more changes in the near future, which are meant to scrub every sign of Twitter from both the desktop and mobile experience. One of the biggest changes for heavy Twitter users will be the death of Tweetdeck, which allows for multiple Twitter feeds in one window. It’s moving to subscription only. No word on whether it will be called X-Deck.

Musk’s announcement of the name change included numerous grandiose statements about the all-encompassing nature of X, and how it will consume the banking industry (and possibly every industry) while bringing on a period when Musk controls every transaction on the planet—which must be someone’s definition of paradise. But in the meantime, the interface is a mishmash of branding elements that will surely be featured in some future textbook on how not to do a product rollout.

As usual, supposed-CEO Linda Yaccarino was following along in Musk’s wake, making even more ill-defined statements that gave every impression that all of this was as baffling to her as it was to everyone else. Also, she worked very hard to insert the one thing that she might say that would make people more queasy than saying Musk wants to own everything. See if you can spot it.

It’s entirely possible that X will actually become a well-established payment hub. It might even become something more. Considering the competing standards and many options now faced by consumers when making web purchases, there would certainly seem to be a niche for some dominant player to emerge. Musk still has many billions in cash to throw at the problem, in spite of his $44 billion bird bath.

Much of the functionality Musk is now describing is already built into WhatsApp. Why didn’t Musk just buy WhatsApp in the first place? Because that platform has a valuation of over $96 billion. That valuation has grown by nearly $20 billion since Musk bought Twitter.

In any case, if Musk wanted to build a payment hub called X and give it some “audio, video, messaging” superpowers, he could have done that without buying Twitter. Through his actions immediately after the purchase, Musk lost most of Twitter’s advertisers. Through his continued embrace of fascists, racists, misogynists, and conspiracy theorists of all ugly stripes, he’s made users long for an alternative service. Now he’s set fire to the Twitter brand, roasting what little remained of the value behind his ill-considered purchase.

X marks the spot where Musk didn’t just murder Twitter: It’s also an admission of defeat.

A terrific thread from Democratic strategist Elizabeth Spiers shows why even the basic idea of “X” as some kind of global financial platform is ridiculous. Definitely worth reading.


Sign the petition: Denounce Elon Musk’s tyrannical takeover of Twitter.


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