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Christopher Phillips
Christopher Phillips

X App: A Review of the Everything App by Elon Musk



By comparison WeChat, which launched in January 2011, is a true innovation: one unified platform able to combine a whole range of features found via popular Western smartphone apps such as WhatsApp, [hotlink]Instagram,[/hotlink] and Apple Pay.


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An everything app is a super app, or an app of apps. It aggregates services that you would otherwise need several apps to carry out. Basically, you get access to everything you need with just one password and one user interface.


Musk has not elaborated on what his everything app X would look like, but financial services would likely be at the core of it. After all, the domain X.com was once a fintech company which eventually became PayPal. Musk has also spoken fondly about China's super app WeChat and wants Twitter to be like WeChat. He has said:


WeChat, which the Trump administration unsuccessfuly tried to ban alongside TikTok, offers messaging, video calls, online payments, food delivery, government services, and other features. Business Insider reports that WeChat is so useful in China that it has come pretty close to its goal of being involved in "every moment of the user's daily life, from morning till night, anytime, anywhere."


Musk has previously flirted with creating a Tesla phone. Also, Tesla customers can pay with the Dogecoin cryptocurrency for merchandise. Perhaps the future of the X app is that you cannot access Twitter unless you download the X app.


Maybe Twitter, or X, also gets embedded in a future Tesla phone, allowing you to control your Tesla vehicle and pay for Tesla services such as supercharging and software upgrades in Dogecoin. Perhaps X also allows you to pay for Starlink internet and access any other goods and services that Musk's business empire offers.


Musk could also buy out other apps and add them to the world of X. Or he could go into partnerships with folks such as Uber, Lyft, Venmo, and Grubhub or a crypto exchange. Assuming Twitter's over 200 million daily active users are already in the world of X, there would be a ready market for these other apps in there, which would perhaps make a partnership attractive to them.


Other big tech players such as Facebook, WhatsApp, TikTok, Venmo, Snapchat, Uber, and Google are also interested in becoming super apps, and have actually tried with limited success. Americans are used to having many apps, so it is hard to imagine the X app muscling into other app domains successfully.


The US government, the European Union, and China have been investigating and cracking down hard on big tech. There are rumors out there of a move to break up dominant firms such as Facebook. Musk is likely to face political and legal resistance should he attempt to use his financial muscle to build X into a dominant global big tech platform.


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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk talks with then-President Donald Trump after viewing the SpaceX flight to the International Space Station, at Kennedy Space Center, May 30, 2020, in Cape Canaveral, Fla.Alex Brandon/AP Photo


On Tuesday, the billionaire cryptically hinted at his plans when he tweeted "X." While Musk did not elaborate on the tweet, it came after it was reportedly revealed Twitter had merged into a shell company called X Corp. On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that Twitter had been absorbed into X Corp, citing a document from April 4 that was submitted as an exhibit in a lawsuit against Twitter and its cofounder Jack Dorsey.


While Musk hasn't fully clarified whether he 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.


X wouldn't be the first app trying to do a bit of everything. In fact, Musk indicated in May that he might look for inspiration from Tencent's WeChat, a Chinese social media juggernaut that's one of the largest super-apps in the world.


Last 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.


In February, the Financial Times reported that the billionaire plans to add crypto functionality to Twitter after the site is approved for payments. The social media company has applied for a series of licenses to allow the platform to process payments, a major feature of superapps like WeChat, per the FT.


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 last 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. Shortly after buying Twitter, Musk began charging Twitter users for the app's blue check mark.


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. In November, Musk followed through on his promise to reinstate Trump's account.


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.


Since taking over the social media company the billionaire has had less to say on the issue, but on Monday, he said Twitter's subscription process will help eliminate "impersonation fraud" on the site.


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According to Ashlee Vance, the author of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Musk's obsession with the letter X began with one of the billionaire's earliest ventures, X.com, which later merged with a competitor to become PayPal.


"X marks the spot in a lot of ways for Elon Musk," said Tim Higgins, a Wall Street Journal reporter and the author of Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk, and the Bet of the Century. "It's kind of this common theme throughout."


"The idea being that the Tesla models would spell out the word 'sexy,'" Higgins said. But Ford owns the right to the Model E, which is why Musk later settled on the Model 3, "kind of a backwards E," he said.


"He wants to create an app similar to how WeChat is used in China, where it's part of the fabric of day-to-day life. You use it to communicate, to consume news, to buy things, to pay your rent, to book appointments with your doctor and even to pay fines," said Vance.


Vance says following the WeChat model makes sense with what Musk wants for Twitter. "The company clearly needs a new, bigger business if it's to make the type of money that would justify his investment and satisfy his ambition," he said.


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Indeed, Tencent has already teamed up with its portfolio company Nio, one of the fastest-growing EV startups in China, to create a news program tailored to people when they are driving. Nio could easily plug an array of other third-party applications, like video streaming services and voice assistants, into its in-car operating system. And so could Tesla.


The idea behind this project is to replace applications which no longer integrate properly outside of a particular environment (this is the case for a growing number of GNOME applications) and to give our desktop environments the same set of core applications, so that each change, each new feature being developed, each little improvement made in one of them will benefit not just one environment, but all of them.


The GNOME Bluetooth frontend was removed from gnome-bluetooth and made part of gnome-control-center, essentially making gnome-bluetooth useless outside of GNOME. Blueberry provides that missing frontend and makes it easy for other GTK desktops to use gnome-bluetooth.


Earlier this week, Elon Musk did an about-face in negotiations with Twitter, putting his $44 billion acquisition offer back on the table. He also hinted at his possible vision for the social media platform, tweeting that "Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app."


"If you're in China, you kind of live on WeChat," Musk said. "It does everything. It's sort of like Twitter, plus PayPal, plus a whole bunch of things 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."


The super app, he continued, should serve as a "digital town square" that lets users leave comments and post videos. Once the platform had a high level of trust among the public, Musk said, "then payments, whether it's crypto or fiat, can make a lot of sense."


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