From Twitter to X
*A version of this story ran in USA Today *

Elon Musk’s sloppy, affluenza-addled rebrand from Twitter to “X,” the “everything app,” this past week begs the question, ‘Just how much damage can one billionaire do?’

The answer could be more complicated, cruel, and intensely captivating than the mercurial man-child himself.

Musk wants to turn the social media site formerly known as “Twitter” into a WeChat-like “everything app.” Apparently, that means “X” now marks the spot for an emerging platform for chat, news, banking, shopping, streaming video, and more.

What is the X Elon Musk Everything App? 

Think of an entire operating system like iOS or Android, rolled into one singular app where you can do everything from text a friend to watch breaking news, buy a hamburger, shop for a suit, and pay your rent. Instead of 100 apps on your phone, you could have just one, and it could be called “X.”

“If done right,” Musk said during a recent podcast interview, “X would serve people’s financial needs to such a degree that over time it would become, I don’t know, maybe half of the global financial system.”

Musk’s vision is a sort of world-dominating mash-up of PayPal, YouTube, TikTok, WeChat, Venmo, Amazon, Medium, and Google Search. It’s an outright land grab for even more money, power, and king-of-the-nerd bragging rights that Musk’s waited a long time to claim.

Why doesn’t an “everything app” already exist in America?

Musk is not the first to aim for an everything app modeled after China’s ubiquitous WeChat. It’s long been the Holy Grail for Silicon Valley tech titans itching for more wealth and power.

In 2019, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out plans for WhatsApp to evolve into a platform for “calls, video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payments, commerce, and ultimately a platform for many other kinds of private services.” Obviously, it hasn’t come to fruition.

The CEOs of Uber and Snap also went all-in on this notion – to no avail. America is a more difficult place to create a once-size-fits-all app than China. We have historical differences in the way these various businesses run in the U.S., more antitrust and regulatory scrutiny, not to mention consumer confidence and privacy issues.

Those rules are of little consequence to Elon Musk, though, and the world’s wealthiest man will likely ‘double dog dare’ anyone who tries to stop him.

“Between Tesla, Starlink, and Twitter, I may have more real-time global economic data in one head than anyone ever,” Musk tweeted back in April.

That statement scares the hell out of me because a) it’s probably true, and b) it’s not good for any of us.

Has anyone ever, in all of history—with this degree of wealth and power—and so little in the way of legal, regulatory, or ethical scruples—done something good for humanity with it? At what point do we, the people Musk relies on to buy what he’s selling us, matter?  The answer to both of those questions? Never.

Why did Elon Musk change Twitter’s name?

Famed biographer, Walter Isaacson’s upcoming book Elon Musk could shed the most light to date on what’s behind the Twitter rebrand and the “tough, yet vulnerable,” explosive entrepreneur himself.

Elon Musk has a score to settle; with bullies on the playground who beat him up as a child in South Africa; with his abusive father; and with the Silicon Valley power players that fired him the last time he tried to rebrand an app to “X.

In 1999, Musk started an online finance company,, which merged with PayPal. Musk became CEO of the combined company and tried to push a name change to “X” back then.

As Bloomberg journalist and author Max Chafkin details in his book, The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power, Musk was obsessed with changing the PayPal brand to X at a time the payment company was, like Twitter, popular but losing money.

According to Chafkin, Musk ignored focus groups that didn’t like the name X because, among other things, it conjured pornography. Musk was ousted within a year, in part because he tried to push the rebrand anyway. Fast forward to today, is this Musk’s way of setline an old score? Probably.

Isaacson has told reporters that Musk’s been plotting the X rebrand since before signing the final paperwork to buy Twitter for $44B last year. Musk also told Isaacson that X “can be a trillion-dollar company — easily.”

Musk “Loves being in the arena,” Isaacson said on CNBC last week. “His favorite line in a movie is from the end of Gladiator, ‘Are you not entertained?’ So I think he kind of relishes the drama.”

What’s changed now that Twitter is called X?  

Right now, it’s the same as the old Twitter, just with a new name and logo that a majority of people love to hate.

A quick search for “Twitter” in your app store brings up the basic black “X” logo, the new tagline “Blaze your glory,” and a spike in negative reviews:

  • “Don’t want to use X; sounds like a porn site.”
  • “Burn in hell.”
  • “Awful site. Awful app. Awful rebrand.”

Anthony Bartolacci from Market Intelligence Firm Sensor Tower pulled the latest user numbers for us this afternoon. He said that even though more people installed the Twitter/X app over the last week, “installs grew 20% week-over-week,” engagement’s down.

“Some of the decline in engagement may be attributable to users expressing frustration with changes to the app (and/or company management),” Barolacci wrote to me in an email. “Nearly 78% of all US iOS reviews of Twitter/X since the rebrand has been 1-star, vs. ‘only’ 50% 1-star reviews for the preceding period,” he added.

visits to twitter since the X rebrandfrom twitter to x: daily android users

Internet analytics firm Similarweb numbers mirror those results. According to data it shared with USA Today, Musk’s rebrand brought more eyeballs to the social media site for a few days, especially via Android and web browsers, but it hasn’t necessarily been good for business.

The company continues to hemorrhage money (it’s lost two-thirds of its value since Musk took over), employees, and users’ faith.

What’s Elon Musk doing to garner support for this app? 

Any other elite entrepreneur might see this as a good time to build up a smidgen of consumer, advertiser, and even regulator confidence.

There are a few simple PR plays to come across as less of a Batman villain. At the very least, he could exercise a little caution while killing off an iconic brand and expecting everyone to fork over even more trust, personal information, and, ultimately, money.

Not Musk. No way. Instead, he’s doubled down on “disruption” and disintegrating civil discourse.

Over the past week, he backed the installation of a giant, gaudy glowing “X” logo sign that went up on the roof of the company’s San Francisco headquarters last Friday.

The company put the sign up without permits, then removed it three days later. But not until at least two dozen people living nearby complained about the signs’ strobe lights blasting into their bedrooms at all hours, not to mention the potential safety issues of a partially sandbag-secured steel sign atop a tall building in a city known for earthquakes.

The amount of money, time, and energy this sign snafu alone cost the company, the building landlord, and the city would have been much better spent on solving a real problem, such as the scores of homeless people living in the shadows of the very “doom spiral” (as Musk posted about San Francisco on Saturday) that he perpetuates.

Speaking of doom spiral, can you imagine being so cocky that you can wipe out one of the most iconic and recognizable brands in history with a flippant tweet, er, Xeet, erm, post?  (For now, the official term for what you do on the X app, aside from wasting precious hours in the day you’ll never get back, is called “posting” though Musk says someday it might be called X’s. Insert eyeroll emoji.)

But that’s not all.

In the past few days, Musk and his company have also threatened to sue a non-profit research group after it published a report detailing the proliferation of hate speech on the platform. X also reinstated rapper Kanye West’s account, which it suspended in December for violating rules on inciting violence following multiple antisemitic comments.

With all of this going on, what does Musk have to say? He posted a photo of himself in an “I love Canada,” shirt, but used his blazer to cover part of the word “Canada” to read “anal.”

That’s arguably funny if you’re 12. But if Elon Musk actually yields the kind of global power he says he does, it’s worth asking — when is he going to grow up?