Twitter’s X is not new: Elon Musk has been obsessed with it for 25 years

surprised many a few days ago by announcing on social the complete rebranding and overhaul of the platform. Something that might be expected from his statements in recent months, where he claimed to want to launch “, an app for everything,” but which has caught many off guard by its rapidity and the decision to trash all the weight of the previous brand and not integrate or keep it in some form.

Meaningless to many, incomprehensible to others, exciting for the ever-fewer staunch followers of the billionaire's aimless decisions, the X and the domain now preside over and redirect to Twitter, respectively.

Aside: some are already suggesting that the definitive domain change may technically be very complex and affect the large amount of traffic that the now-old Twitter receives via . We'll see.

In any case, Musk had already announced and we had heard about X Corp., the holding company on which he would want to base this new Twitter, focusing on “video, audio, messages, payments, and AI,” as he stated. And also, the launch a few weeks ago of, his AI matrix supposedly to compete with , thanks to the large amount of information present on the social network.

It's well-known that throughout his career Musk has used the 24th letter of the alphabet in several of his companies. SpaceX, his space exploration company, and Model X, his electric SUV, are examples of this.

The letter X has also played a significant role in Elon Musk's personal life. In 2020, Musk and his then-partner, the musician known as Grimes, named their son X Æ A-Xii. Later, the name of the couple's second child was changed to ‘Y' of Exa Dark Sideræl Musk. Asked about the reason for the name, the singer said that X was “the unknown variable.”

However, his relationship with X as a brand goes back nearly half his current life when 25 years ago (Musk is now 52), he acquired the domain, initially thinking of using it for his first company, which later became part of PayPal.

The Origin of Musk's Obsession with X

Thiel and Musk, at the beginning of PayPal with the still-present X logo

Zip2 was Musk's first successful company, co-founded with his brother Kimbal and Greg Kouri. Their proposal was software that allowed newly born online newspaper editions to implement local guides.

Compaq acquired Zip2 to integrate it into the lost search engine Altavista, and the Musks began to make their fortune with its sale.

It was the year 1999, and Elon Musk, with his recently purchased domain, started X, an online payments company that soon merged with its analog Confinity, founded in turn by Peter Thiel.

From that union came PayPal, a company that would serve to create one of the most powerful nests of technological talent and power, and that, with its purchase by eBay, would give Musk the financial wings to fully engage in the adventures of Tesla or SpaceX.

With the company's sale, PayPal kept part of its assets, which remained unused for years until Musk bought it back in 2017, posting a tweet (now would it be an Xs?) in thanks.

But before that, many things happened. And also with X.

The Sexual Connotation and Doubts About Its Use

There are several versions in the backstage of Musk's first big businesses about the origin of X and the domain. Julie Anderson Ankenbrandt, one of the early executives of PayPal, wrote on Quora about the original company's name.

“Elon, the other founders of the company that was, and I sat around a table in the back room of a long-vanished bar called Blue Chalk in Palo Alto, trying to decide what the company's name should be… and the question at hand was whether it should be q, x, or z dot com,” Ankenbradnt wrote in 2016.

“Finally, when the waitress brought the next round of , Elon asked her what she thought, and she said she liked Elon banged the table and said, ‘That's it then!' and everyone laughed, but in the end, that's more or less how it was decided.”

Despite Musk's expulsion from PayPal in 2000, where Thiel and his loyalists voted to change the company's direction and strip Musk of power while he was on a trip to Australia, the CEO of Tesla and Twitter/X continued to have a soft spot for the domain. Hence, he bought it back.

According to Ashlee Vance, author of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, he told NPR about domain X that “everyone tried to convince him not to name the company that way because of the sexual innuendos, but he liked it a lot and stuck with it.

The third vision was contributed on Sunday by journalist Walter Isaacson, who is writing a new biography about the CEO of Tesla, saying that Musk assured him before taking control of Twitter that he planned to rename it as and “try to turn it into a platform that fulfilled his original 1999 vision.”

Musk wrote in 2017 that he still had “no plan” for the domain but that it had “great sentimental value” for him. When another user tweeted to Musk suggesting he use X as an “umbrella website” for all his other companies, Musk replied that this was probably the best use of the domain.

The Immediate and Long-Term Future of Twitter / X

Musk has already spoken publicly and privately about his plans for an app similar to WeChat, the popular Chinese super app offering a variety of services, from messaging and video chat to games, photo sharing, transportation services, delivery, banking, and shopping.

The idea is for Twitter, under the name of X, to become a platform multiple functions. It is still unclear if many of Twitter's original features will survive this transformation.

Along with Twitter's transformation into X, Elon Musk is also working on new initiatives related to (AI), such as X.AI, his new company that will rival OpenAI, and the creation of TruthGPT, an alternative to ChatGPT, which he mentioned only in an interview with Fox News.

These initiatives show Musk's continued interest in AI and his desire to create his own version of a super app. However, they also raise questions about how these new companies will be balanced with his other projects, including Tesla and SpaceX.

Blockchain and Payments: The Desired Future or Twitter's Last Life?

For now, we know rather little. Musk has named audio and video as new pillars, along with messaging and a recent update that will allow companies to post their job vacancies on X, perhaps competing with LinkedIn.

What seems to be resurfacing, according to information published in February by the Financial Times, is an idea that Musk has mentioned before: that with the help of blockchain, a secure messaging system is formed where each message has an infinitesimal cost. Imperceptible to anyone, but that would prevent massive use by bots.

To this is also added the new fund and distribution of advertising revenues for creators launched a few days ago, and also, of course, the current subscription to Twitter Blue.

But don't be deceived. This may be the last way forward for a magnate whose purchase has so far been very costly and has caused advertisers to flee.

If we have to go by the words that its new CEO, Linda Yaccarino, has put down in black and white to her employees, the truth is we can't make anything clear.

With X, we will go even further to transform the city's global square, and impress the world again.

Our company is the only one that has the necessary drive to make it possible. Many companies say they want to move fast, but we like to move at the speed of light, and when we do, that is X. At heart, we have an inventor's mindset: we are constantly learning, trying new approaches, changing to get it right, and ultimately, we succeed.

Linda Yaccarino

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