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Twitter will never be the Everything App
Elon wants to make Twitter into the Western WeChat. That's just not possible.
Today I’m in Foreign Policy talking about Elon’s quest to build an ‘everything app’. Here’s a preview - click through to Foreign Policy to read the full piece!
Last week, Elon Musk rebranded Twitter as “X.” New CEO Linda Yaccarino tweeted that X would be “centered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking,” a step toward Musk’s vision of creating the “everything app” for the Western world. Musk has been focused on this vision for Twitter since before he even bought it, repeatedly praising the Chinese app WeChat in a June 2022 town hall at Twitter. WeChat is known for doing virtually anything an app can do—messaging, audio/video, meetings, translation, social networking, shopping, payments, ride sharing, food delivery, and more. It’s an indispensable app in China, and Musk wants to build X into that app in the United States.
Musk has been laser-focused on his vision of the everything app for longer than most realize. He’s also long been obsessed with the letter X—he named his original online bank X.com, founded SpaceX, and even named his son “X Æ A-12.” His X-ray vision, if you’ll forgive the pun, dates back to his founding of the original X.com. Musk described that firm, which would eventually merge with Confinity to form PayPal, as a “global financial nexus” that could handle bank accounts, mortgages, credit, insurance, stocks—anything and everything financial.
On the face of it, none of this seems unreasonable. Such an app would be one of the most valuable companies in the world if it succeeded. It’s a tall task, but Musk has been involved in the founding of three separate multibillion-dollar companies. WeChat (along with competitors such as AliPay) has proven that such apps can reach scale and be wildly successful. And WeChat was initially built on the back of parent company Tencent’s popular social network, QQ. If it can be done, why not Musk? And why not start with Twitter?
Unfortunately for Musk, his vision of creating a Western WeChat is doomed to failure. Companies like Meta and Alphabet have made attempts before. These companies have every advantage—more cash available than Musk, larger pools of technical talent, better public reputation, and more successful lines of business in the app ecosystem. Nevertheless, none have succeeded in building an everything app. WeChat exists in a very specific Chinese context, and attempts to brute force it in a very different context will crash and burn.
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