Twitter successor ‘X’ marks Musk’s war for the public’s attention

2023-07-24 - Scroll down for original article

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The internet is astir over Twitter’s name change — from “Twitter” to “X” — which was officially announced Monday. The specifics of what, exactly, this means for the social platform are a bit hazy, but owner Elon Musk’s goals as it pertains to the move are hardly mysterious. What will X be? Last October, Musk tweeted: “Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app.” That phrase — an “everything app” — is widely viewed as a descriptor for popular apps that are essentially multiuse apps, allowing users to use a single app to peruse social media, pay bills, conduct calls, make purchases and do virtually anything they’d do elsewhere on the internet. Musk talked up one such app, the China-backed WeChat, during his town hall with Twitter employees in June. But as TechCrunch noted back in October: “The exact WeChat features that impress Musk are also the source of criticisms of the app.” The writer of the piece, Rita Liao, explained concerns that critics have expressed about WeChat and its parent company, Tencent: The all-in-one messenger has in effect erected a walled garden, critics say, where e-commerce transactions only take place over its payments app and information consumed by users is either published within WeChat’s infrastructure or third-party services backed by Tencent. Links from Tencent’s nemeses, like Alibaba and Douyin (TikTok’s sister in China), were inaccessible on WeChat until Beijing’s recent anti-monopoly movement began to tear down the thick walls. Liao went on to explain: “A super app might bring convenience to users as they hardly need to leave the platform — which in turn helps drive revenues for the company — but the model can stifle competition and rule out user choices.” Musk’s quest for an everything app begins to make a bit more sense when you consider he’s starved — or, at least, hungry — for attention. By which I mean, he enjoys being the focus of people’s interest — and his businesses, from Tesla to what was formerly known as Twitter, rely on acquiring massive amounts of data from consumers. To be clear, essentially every social media platform relies on a business model that involves parlaying user data into money made from advertisers hoping to target ads at particular users. Musk seems to think X is his shot at world domination in the tech space. This is why I’ve written previously about platforms like Facebook and Twitter being involved in an “ugly war for our time and attention.” Meta’s weapons of choice are well-known platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and the newly launched Threads. Musk seems to think X is his shot at world domination in the tech space. Ultimately, this competition shows that our time — especially time spent on social media apps — amounts to real money. And some of the wealthiest people in the world are plotting ways to claim it for themselves. I’d be cautious about giving it over to them so freely.