Examining Twitter’s flight into super app X

An aerial view shows a newly constructed X sign on the roof of the headquarters of the social media platform previously known as Twitter, in San Francisco. Picture: AFP

An aerial view shows a newly constructed X sign on the roof of the headquarters of the social media platform previously known as Twitter, in San Francisco. Picture: AFP

Published Aug 1, 2023


Elon Musk’s X.com, originally conceived as an “everything-store” for financial services in 1999, is being relaunched in 2023 as a more ambitious version of Twitter.

Musk, who now owns Twitter, has outlined plans for a new social network with additional functions for comprehensive communication and financial operations, effectively transforming Twitter into a super app named X.

The new CEO of X, Linda Yaccarino, has painted a vision for the app that extends far beyond its microblogging roots, saying, “X is the future state of unlimited interactivity – centred in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking – creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities.”

Musk’s plans for X have been compared to WeChat, the widely used Chinese app that combines social media with other services. Under Musk’s direction, Twitter has already made some product moves that hint at this transformation.

According to Musk, X.com aims to encompass a wider variety of applications and services, inspired by the integrated nature of WeChat. Some of these include job listings from verified organisations and significant opportunities in the payments sector. Musk has spoken about making X a platform for financial transactions, from sending money instantly and in real time to paying users for their content.

The concept of a super app like X.com is not entirely new in the technology world. Other apps, including Instagram, Meta Pay, TikTok, and Snapchat, have also expanded beyond their original functions to offer a wider range of services. The potential for an app like X.com in the US market is compelling, given its potential to provide a one-stop solution for various activities such as socialising, banking, shopping and transportation.

Aside from becoming a super app, X.com will also maintain and expand its social media roots. It will continue to be a social platform where users can post messages (now called "x's"), view posts, and communicate with others. Its subscription service, formerly Twitter Blue, offers premium features such as a verification checkmark, edit posts, less ads, and a share in ad revenue.

X.com also aims to become a platform for long-form content, with character limits increased up to 25 000 for Blue subscribers and plans to allow users to share “very long, complex articles.” With video uploads of up to two hours for Blue subscribers, Musk is also positioning X.com as a potential rival to YouTube.

However, there are several challenges to realising this vision. Regulatory scrutiny of social media and technology companies is intensifying, possibly limiting the scope of any single app. Furthermore, convincing users to switch to X for various services might be difficult due to the existence of well-established incumbents in these areas.

The success of X.com is uncertain. The platform faces stiff competition in its primary area of microblogging and has been criticised for various reasons, including its verification policy and its association with controversial political figures. Public sentiment towards Twitter has been hesitant at best since Musk’s takeover, and the rebrand to X is unlikely to help the situation.

Despite these challenges, Musk's X.com represents a bold attempt to create a new type of super app that combines a social network with various digital services. Whether users will embrace this model remains to be seen.

James Browning is a freelance tech writer and local music journalist.