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Is Elon Musk about to turn Twitter into the god app?

X marks the spot. Credit: Getty

July 24, 2023 - 1:00pm

It wasn’t a joke. Elon Musk really is rebranding Twitter. Just as he promised in a tweet on Sunday, the company will “bid adieu to the twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds”. A new X logo has already been unveiled and the X.com domain name now redirects to the Twitter site.

But why is Musk doing this? Why acquire a social media company for $44 billion only to erase its corporate identity? Imagine Apple or Coca-Cola or Rolls-Royce rebranding as “E” or “J” or “Z”. It appears to make no sense.

Some commentators have noted Musk’s fixation with the 24th letter of the alphabet. It repeatedly appears in the names of his companies, such as SpaceX; his products, such as the Tesla Model X; and even his children. More broadly, X is a pluripotent symbol in Western culture. It variously signifies obscenity, anonymity, the alcoholic strength of beer, a kiss and Jesus Christ. In mathematics, it stands for an unknown quantity; in pirate cartography, a buried treasure.

One of Musk’s recent tweets simply reads, “Deus Ex”, cleaving the final word from the classical phrase meaning “god from the machine”. Its origin stems from Greek theatre, in which mechanisms like winches or trap doors were used to make supernatural beings appear onstage. If Twitter is the machine in this metaphor, though, then what ā€” or who ā€” is the god?Ā 

To answer that, we need to trace the origins of X.com, which started off as an online bank co-founded by Musk. After merging with a competitor, the company changed its name to PayPal and Musk went off to do other things. However, he has since reacquired the X.com domain name. The fact that he’s using it to rebrand Twitter suggests that heā€™s pressing ahead with expansion plans.

In the West, most apps are used to do a particular thing ā€” for instance, PayPal is for transferring money, Uber for hailing taxis, and Twitter for berating strangers on the internet. But in Asia, so-called “everything apps” are used to access multiple services. The most prominent example is Chinaā€™s WeChat, which plays a huge part in the countryā€™s very online financial infrastructure. Musk has big ambitions and a track record of achieving them. If those include turning Twitter into the Western WeChat, then we need to stop sniggering and take him seriously.

After all, Twitter provides the perfect launchpad. It has hundreds of millions of users in multiple countries, a super-accessible user interface and a public profile that, unlike most social networks, does not limit its appeal to narrow demographics. If any app could become the everything app ā€” indeed the god app ā€” it is this one.

But there’s a problem ā€” which is Twitter’s reputation as, primarily, a microblogging site. Far from being an asset, the familiarity of the branding is a liability. In its place, Musk needs a name that can become known for many things, not just one. X hits the spot.

So his critics are wrong: Musk has not lost his mind. Shooting the bird makes perfect sense.


Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.

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john d rockemella
john d rockemella
9 months ago

Elon musk – says all the right things, talks about freedom of speech and liberty! Question why is he invited to WEF and global summits? How did a man gain so much access to liquidity through capital markets? Blackrock is one of his biggest investors, and they are anti-human! He has the ear of president XI, wants the world to be watched with starlink so there will be no movement they cannot track, he wants to turn Twitter into some communist copycat tool which removes cash. How does this man create and run so many companies, it just is not achievable. None of these people are focussing on better food or improved healthcare, but technology to trap and trace youā€™re every movement, welcome to 1984, you are all monitored cattle, you have no god given rights, you are the entity of corporations! How would this endā€¦ā€¦.

D Walsh
D Walsh
9 months ago

He got lucky selling PayPal to ebay, he then took his 150million and did what everyone said was a dumb move, he started SpaceX and invested in Tesla

D Walsh
D Walsh
9 months ago

He got lucky selling PayPal to ebay, he then took his 150million and did what everyone said was a dumb move, he started SpaceX and invested in Tesla

john d rockemella
john d rockemella
9 months ago

Elon musk – says all the right things, talks about freedom of speech and liberty! Question why is he invited to WEF and global summits? How did a man gain so much access to liquidity through capital markets? Blackrock is one of his biggest investors, and they are anti-human! He has the ear of president XI, wants the world to be watched with starlink so there will be no movement they cannot track, he wants to turn Twitter into some communist copycat tool which removes cash. How does this man create and run so many companies, it just is not achievable. None of these people are focussing on better food or improved healthcare, but technology to trap and trace youā€™re every movement, welcome to 1984, you are all monitored cattle, you have no god given rights, you are the entity of corporations! How would this endā€¦ā€¦.

Debbie Thompson
Debbie Thompson
9 months ago

I wonder about the genesis of the Musk “X” brands –I stumbled on this: (keeping in mind Musk’s quixotic comments about Christianity last year with editors of the satire news site, Babylon Bee– he said, (SNIP–“I agree with the principles that Jesus advocated. There’s some great wisdom in the teachings of Jesus, and I agree with those teachings. Things like ‘turn the other cheek’ are very important, as opposed to ‘an eye for an eye’. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind,” Musk said. “Forgiveness is important and treating people as you would wish to be treated. ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself. But hey, if Jesus is saving people, I mean, I won’t stand in His way,” Musk added. “Sure, I’ll be saved. Why not?”).
So back to ‘X’…
“In the Greek alphabet, X is the symbol for the letter ‘chi. ‘ Chi (or X) is the first letter in the Greek word for ‘Christ’ meaning Messiah. In the early days of the Christian church, Christians used the letter X as a secret symbol to indicate their membership in the church to others.”
“In the early fourth century, Constantine the Great, Roman Emperor from 306-337, popularized this symbol for Christ. According to legend, on the eve of his great battle against Maxentius, Constantine had a vision that led him to create a military banner emblazoned with the first two letters of Christ on it: chi and rho –(which when combined, seemed to resemble the “Anhk”).
These two letters, then, became a sort of shorthand for Jesus Christ. Iterations like “Xmas” evolved from this and were not originally intended to “strike out” Christ. Quite the opposite.
“Biblically, the letter X is used to symbolize Christ in many Christian traditions, as itā€™s the first letter of the Greek word for Christ (Ī§ĻĪ¹ĻƒĻ„ĻŒĻ‚).
Similarly, in the book of Revelation, the mark of the beast is often depicted as the Roman numeral X, which is used to convey the idea of power and domination.”
More on ‘x’…”Since its inception, the letter X has struggled to establish its own identity, so it may be no coincidence that X is commonly used to represent the unknown in both language and mathematics.”
All in all a very cryptic, storied symbol full of faith, ephemeral mystery, spiritual quest and sacred science in continuum.

Debbie Thompson
Debbie Thompson
9 months ago

I wonder about the genesis of the Musk “X” brands –I stumbled on this: (keeping in mind Musk’s quixotic comments about Christianity last year with editors of the satire news site, Babylon Bee– he said, (SNIP–“I agree with the principles that Jesus advocated. There’s some great wisdom in the teachings of Jesus, and I agree with those teachings. Things like ‘turn the other cheek’ are very important, as opposed to ‘an eye for an eye’. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind,” Musk said. “Forgiveness is important and treating people as you would wish to be treated. ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself. But hey, if Jesus is saving people, I mean, I won’t stand in His way,” Musk added. “Sure, I’ll be saved. Why not?”).
So back to ‘X’…
“In the Greek alphabet, X is the symbol for the letter ‘chi. ‘ Chi (or X) is the first letter in the Greek word for ‘Christ’ meaning Messiah. In the early days of the Christian church, Christians used the letter X as a secret symbol to indicate their membership in the church to others.”
“In the early fourth century, Constantine the Great, Roman Emperor from 306-337, popularized this symbol for Christ. According to legend, on the eve of his great battle against Maxentius, Constantine had a vision that led him to create a military banner emblazoned with the first two letters of Christ on it: chi and rho –(which when combined, seemed to resemble the “Anhk”).
These two letters, then, became a sort of shorthand for Jesus Christ. Iterations like “Xmas” evolved from this and were not originally intended to “strike out” Christ. Quite the opposite.
“Biblically, the letter X is used to symbolize Christ in many Christian traditions, as itā€™s the first letter of the Greek word for Christ (Ī§ĻĪ¹ĻƒĻ„ĻŒĻ‚).
Similarly, in the book of Revelation, the mark of the beast is often depicted as the Roman numeral X, which is used to convey the idea of power and domination.”
More on ‘x’…”Since its inception, the letter X has struggled to establish its own identity, so it may be no coincidence that X is commonly used to represent the unknown in both language and mathematics.”
All in all a very cryptic, storied symbol full of faith, ephemeral mystery, spiritual quest and sacred science in continuum.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago

I am betting on Musk being successful. I would trust him more with my banking than any other company.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago

I am betting on Musk being successful. I would trust him more with my banking than any other company.

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
9 months ago

While he hasn’t lost his mind, he is the quintessential tech guy who believes branding and design are easy and do not require a second thought as to who you are making the product for.

Mustard Clementine
Mustard Clementine
9 months ago

While he hasn’t lost his mind, he is the quintessential tech guy who believes branding and design are easy and do not require a second thought as to who you are making the product for.