Is twitter rebrand barking mad or genius?

Category: Social Media
Is twitter rebrand to X barking mad or genius?

There’s been a fair amount of gobsmacked surprise at Elon Musk renaming twitter to X and tweets to Xs, and many in the branding world think he’s gone barking mad at taking a well established brand and trashing it, but is that the case?

To decide between barking mad and insane genius, it’s worth going back in time to the 1990s when Elon first made his money in a banking business, eventually rolled into PayPal. Elon’s original vision was a service with current accounts, savings accounts, brokerage, and insurance as one of the first online banking services. With his partners, that bank was and when merged with Confinity the joint businesses were renamed and became PayPal.

For many years that’s where paused, with the URL redirecting to PayPal and then PayPal being acquired by eBay and Elon stepped away, going on to play with rocket ships and electric cards.

PayPal grew under eBay ownership, and the next time reappeared was a short-lived attempt by eBay, in 2011, to create X-Commerce, described as a fabric that would connect all of ecommerce. The idea was that open-source developers could add functionality and tailor the software for a retailers specific requirements, enabling them to add in every business process and flow required to integrate into existing back end accounts and inventory management solutions.

The main thrust of X-Commerce was that developers would connect services to the fabric rather than endless plugins and APIs and if everyone adopted this new ecommerce backbone everything would interoperate without needing multiple interfaces to discrete solutions. This failed pretty quickly once it become obvious that Amazon wasn’t going to play ball and once again redirected to PayPal.

PayPal was eventually spun off from eBay but that’s another story.

Over a decade later and Elon Musk steps back into the picture, having reluctantly purchased twitter, slashing staff and upsetting just about everyone in the process. Somehow Elon has reacquired the URL and it’s now redirecting to twitter… or X as I guess we should now call it.

So, apart from some long lost love for which became PayPal and made Elon’s first fortune, the name and URL has some history and that fits with the vision Elon has for twitter. Plus Elon has this thing for the letter X, he originally named his son X Æ A-12 until he had to change it to comply with the law, his rocket company is SpaceX and of course there’s a Tesla model X!

Elon’s plans are to take twitter from a messaging service to a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities. He’s looking to Chinese services such as WeChat where messaging, shopping and banking are all tied together in a single app and wondering why there’s nothing like this in the West. Remember back to the beginning, he already has form for playing in the internet banking world and nothing would close the loop on his career quite as nicely as once again having a banking arm.

Barking mad or genius, everyone will have their own opinion on changing such a recognisable brand as twitter… but if Elon pulls it off and X becomes a global marketplace, history will judge this as the moment the internet changed.


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