Elon Musk has always loved the letter X.
Now, he’s killing off the Twitter brand and the famous blue bird in favor of X as part of an effort to turn his $44 billion acquisition into something that really belongs to him.
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Musk’s vision of X is something like China’s WeChat, a super app that people can use to entertain and buy goods and services online, as well as post updates and message their friends. But the rebrand comes after months of erratic behavior by the world’s richest person alienating users and alienating advertisers, leaving Twitter in a troubled financial spot and increasingly vulnerable to competition.
Killing a popular online brand is “extremely risky,” said Mike Proulx, an analyst at Forrester, at a time when competing apps like the new Instagram Thread and smaller startups like Bluesky are luring users.
Proulx said in an email that Musk “single-handedly eliminated more than fifteen years of a brand name that secured its place in our cultural lexicon.”
A company spokesperson did not provide comment for this story.
It’s not an entirely surprising move. Musk has already transferred the Twitter company name to X Corp, itself a subsidiary of X Holding Corp, as revealed in a lawsuit in April. Musk said last October, prior to his purchase of Twitter, that he saw the $44 billion deal as “accelerating the creation of App X, everything.”
The letter X appears prominently in the name of Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX. And more than two decades ago, X.com was the name of Musk’s payments company that eventually became PayPal through a merger with a competitor at the time.
Name changes have become fairly common among storied web companies. Facebook meta In late 2021, Google adopted a version the alphabet title six years ago. However, in those cases, the newly-named parent companies kept the branding for their core services, so that Facebook users and Google researchers could continue to do their work without interruption.
It seems Musk is betting he can get rid of Twitter entirely. Over the weekend, he introduced the new X logo and said in a tweet, “Soon we will be showing goodbye to the Twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds.”
Linda Iaccarino, whom Musk hired as CEO in May, said in an email to employees Monday that the company “will continue to delight our entire community with new experiences in voice, video, messaging, payments, and banking — creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunity.”
Succeeding in this mission is easier said than done.
Proulx said Musk’s desire to turn X into a super app required “time, money, and people,” which Twitter “no longer has.” Earlier this month, Musk said that Twitter had suffered a 50% drop in ad revenue and that it needed to “get to positive cash flow before we have the luxury of anything else.”
Some advertisers have become concerned about promoting their products on Twitter due to reports showing a rise in hate speech and racist and offensive comments on the platform as documented by many civil rights groups and researchers.
Musk has tried to offset some of the drop in ads with a premium subscription service. But at $8 a month, the company would need tens of millions of subscribers to make up the losses.
Advertisers remaining on the platform are now required to adopt a new language. People and companies around the world know Twitter messages as “tweets”. Like Kleenex, Twitter was able to develop a recognizable brand that was instantly recognisable to consumers, an achievement any company’s marketing team would celebrate.
Ralph Schackart, an analyst at William Blair, told CNBC last week that his team of analysts “didn’t pick anything up” from the advertisers it polled as part of a recent digital advertising market survey that would indicate that these companies have increased their spending on Twitter. Meanwhile, there are signs that the overall digital advertising market could improve, according to William Blair’s survey.
Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg said in an emailed statement that the name change marked “a bleak day for many Twitter users and advertisers” and “a clear sign that Twitter for the past 17 years is gone and won’t come back.”
“Twitter’s rebranding is a reminder that Elon Musk, not Thread or any other app, was and likely still is the ‘Twitter killer,’” Enberg wrote.
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