As Elon Musk sets out to rebrand Twitter as X and replace the bird logo as well, his biographer Walter Isaacson shed some light on the billionaire’s infatuation with the name “X.”
Musk conceptualized the name “X” in 1999, as he was looking to start his next business venture and zeroed in on the financial sector, excerpts from the upcoming book shared by Isaacson on Twitter showed.
Armed with his experience at Scotiabank, Musk realized the financial industry was ripe for disruption and founded X.com in March 1999. “His concept for X.com was grand. It would be a one-stop, everything store for all financial needs: banking, digital purchases, checking, credit cards, investments and loans,” said Isaacson.
The now-billionaire wanted transactions to be handled instantly, with no waiting for payments to clear. He suggested that money should be simply an entry into a database and wanted to record all transactions securely recorded in real-time.
“If you fix all the reasons why a consumer would take money out of the system, then it will be the place where all the money is, and that would make it a multitrillion-dollar company,” said Musk.
Isaacson also explained how Musk, with his management tactics of “setting an insane deadline,” launched X.com on a Thanksgiving weekend. The product went live, as Musk inserted an X.com debit card into a nearby ATM.
After X.com merged with a company founded by Peter Thiel and Max Levchin and began to be known as PayPal, Musk insisted the name X.com be retained, with PayPal serving as merely one of its subsidiary brands.
Despite his insistence to rebrand as X-PayPal, Levchin objected, and PayPal went on to become a trusted brand name. Those opposing the name argued that X.com conjured up visions of a seedy site and would not be a polite name for a company.
But Musk was unwavering, and remains so to this day.
“If you want to just be a niche payment system, PayPal is better. But if you want to take over the world’s financial system, then X is the better name,” said Isaacson.
Even before Musk bought Twitter in October 2022, he reportedly told Isaacson that he planned to rebrand it as X.com to make it a platform to fulfill his original vision from 1999.
Musk reportedly texted his biographer, “I am very excited about finally implementing X.com as it should have been done using Twitter as an accelerant and hopefully helping democracy and civil discourse while doing so.”
Musk wanted to turn it into a combination of the financial platform and social network he had envisioned 24 years earlier for X.com and planned to rebrand it with the name he loved, Isaacson said.
Tesla bull Daniel Ives termed rebranding as a risky move. The rebranding, according to the analyst, is part of the Twitter transformation that will eventually lead to the super app concept.
“That said, losing the iconic world-renowned bird logo is a risky move from a branding perspective we believe.”
Future Fund’s Gary Black also took exception to the move. “Today everything works together — we tweet or re-tweet on Twitter and the blue bird reinforces that Twitter is the best platform to announce big events,” he said.
The fund manager wondered what verb will be used to refer to tweets and what tweets will be called now. He also sees the possibility of advertisers disliking the change and opting to wait to see how the branding change impacts advertising efficacy.
Produced in association with Benzinga