Elon Musk has made no secret of his desire to create a Western version of the stupendously popular all-in-one app WeChat, which by now is essential to conducting normal life in China.
On Tuesday, he may have just tweeted it into existence.
Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 4, 2022
“Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app,” he said. And there it is: Quite possibly the real reason Musk threw down $44 billion for the social-media app.
If Musk were to pull such a thing off, notions of freeing the platform from censorship and spam accounts will seem utterly quaint by comparison. An American WeChat – minus the government spying, let’s hope – would be significantly more influential (and profitable) than a barely functioning social-media platform from the mid-2000s. And, as if to fit the Musk business portfolio’s degree-of-difficulty standards, it will be no easy task.
WeChat was released in 2011 as an instant-messaging service, became the world’s largest app in 2018, and metastasized into a one-stop platform for every kind of messaging, video-conferencing, location, gaming, ride-sharing, photo-sharing (and many, many more) functions now necessary to everyday life in China. Its gobsmacking 1 billion-plus users are also tracked and analyzed by Chinese authorities and censorship algorithms.
Back in the free world, Musk will have plenty of competition from WhatsApp, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube, all of which are transparently pursuing super-app ambitions. And pushback from regulators and policymakers is sure to be fierce in the fight to consolidate functions into a single app.
But one big hurdle Musk has already cleared: A user base. It will be easier to build an all-in-one app around Twitter’s nearly 400 million existing users than would be just starting from scratch.
“Twitter probably accelerates X by 3 to 5 years,” Musk tweeted as a follow-up, “but I could be wrong.”
Or maybe Musk is just finding new ways to rationalize the $44 billion purchase he didn’t want to make as recently as a few days ago. To be fair, Musk has floated the one-app-to-rule-them-all idea before – in a town hall with Twitter employees earlier this year, according to Forbes.
“There’s no WeChat equivalent out of China,” he said at the time. “There’s a real opportunity to create that.”