What is Elon Musk's X, the everything app and why is he making it?

Tesla chief's deal to buy Twitter is back on, and he's a known admirer of China's WeChat

Elon Musk has suggested he is going to create a super app known as X, the everything app. AFP
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This year's long-running saga of Elon Musk buying Twitter has had all the drama of a Hollywood film. And then came the twist.

Having decided months ago to pull out of the deal, Mr Musk this week declared in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that he was going ahead with his original offer of buying Twitter for the price of $54.20 a share.

Then he suggested his change of stance was because of his wish to create X, the everything app.

What is X, the everything app?

Details are thin so far, with just Mr Musk's short tweets to go by.

He did, however, reveal that his purchase of Twitter "is an accelerant" to creating the app. In reply to a suggestion that creating it from scratch would be easier, he said: "Twitter probably accelerates X by three to five years, but I could be wrong."

Mr Musk made one further reference to the app on Twitter, saying: "Twitter is an accelerant to fulfilling the original http://X.com vision."

X.com was founded by Mr Musk in 1999 as an online banking site. It merged with PayPal in 2001.

Will it be a super app?

That appears to be the most likely plan right now.

Super apps are popular in Asia because mobile is the main internet access point. They offer a host of services in one place, with the likes of messaging social media, payments and online shopping.

In China, WeChat has more than a billion monthly users. Users can hail a car or taxi, send money to friends and family or make payments at shops.

The WeChat mini-programmes economy is worth about $240 billion and grew about 12.5 per cent to 450 million users in 2021, according to Bloomberg.

Another popular app is Singapore-based Grab, which offers food delivery, taxi hailing, package delivery and financial services.

Why would Mr Musk want a super app?

He has made reference to them before. In June, during a question-and-answer session with Twitter employees, Mr Musk mentioned that there is no equivalent to a super app like WeChat outside Asia.

"You basically live on WeChat in China," he said, and went on to say that he saw an opportunity to create such an app.

During the meeting, he said he wanted to have at least a billion people on Twitter, from the 229 million at that time.

Mr Musk and members of his inner circle texted numerous times about the idea of adding digital payments to Twitter, according to messages released in the discovery phase of litigation between Mr Musk and the social media company.

He gave a little more detail during Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting in August, telling the crowd at a factory near Austin, Texas, that he uses Twitter frequently and knows the product well.

“I think I’ve got a good sense of where to point the engineering team with Twitter to make it radically better,” he said at the time.

Would turning Twitter into a super app work?

Social media expert and industry commentator Matt Navarra told the UK Press Association he was not convinced by the proposal.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said. “Super apps, as they are known in the industry, are not a new thing. They’ve been hugely successful in Asia, but have not really caught on elsewhere.

“Could Twitter form part of a super app that lets you buy goods, chat to friends, get news updates, book a taxi etc? Sure. Can Elon Musk make it work? Possibly. Will Elon actually do it? Who knows. He seems to have commitment issues.”

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Updated: October 06, 2022, 9:26 AM
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