Solve for X: Elon Musk's Visionary Plan for Twitter

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1 year ago

The past couple of weeks have been a wild ride in crypto. It started with Elon Musk freeing the bird, a moment that many die-hard liberals took as a sign that he had flipped them the bird.

And just for greater context, enjoy this nice, sweet little explanation of bird flipping.

Whether Musk freed the bird or flipped the bird is a discussion I’ll leave for the historians. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Mars Colonization wasted no time in making changes to Twitter once he had it in his grubby little—ahem—fingers. One of the first changes he made was to his personal bio, which he tweaked to identify himself as Chief Twit. Then he commenced to firing the top executives of the company.

That’s not all he modified either. Since his acquisition, the chief twit has ruffled more than a few feathers. He has implemented mass layoffs, increased the price of account verification to $8/month, and introduced a new gray mark for truly verified accounts before nixing it entirely. At least he has vision.

There is one thing you can say about Musk’s predictability: It doesn’t exist.

The Twittersphere is now asking, what’s next? Everybody who is anybody has a prediction, and some people who are nobodies have one or two. Practically speaking, that means nobody knows. But everybody cares. In this episode of “Elon Musk has Twitter by the Bird Cockles”, I’ll attempt to prophecy what might be in store for Twitter in the coming ages as the world’s richest billionaire meanders his way from free speech things to reality.

Come along for the ride. If you dare.

Welcome to Musk’s Nightmare

In 1975, rock superstar Alice Cooper went solo with a concept album titled “Welcome to My Nightmare.” Always theatrical, Cooper entertained audiences all around the world with his on-stage antics, working so hard that he fell off one stage and ended up with stitches in his head. It really was a nightmare.

Sometimes, bad experiences get in the way of good plans. You know, of mice and men and all that jazz.

That’s the way I feel about Elon Musk’s first week as Twitter’s new owner. As soon as the gate on the bird cage flew open, trolls rampaged Twitter with race slurs and hate speech, polluting Musk’s intentions for free speech with nasty and ugly language that makes Hollywood movie sets and sailing vessels look like competing Pentecostal and Baptist bake offs. Something tells me he didn’t have that in mind.

So, what did he have in mind?

CNN believes Musk’s focus is on content moderation and the reversal of perma-bans. In other words, it’s all about bringing Trump back to the bird. But is it?

mass exodus of liberal celebrities seems to indicate they may fear a return of the orange-haired Trumpster, too. I highly doubt Musk bought Twitter simply to see Republicans win the mid-terms or to dangle a carrot in front of the former president whose biggest fans are rioters.

One social media publication views the Twitter takeover as a play for bot reduction, open-source algorithms, and subscriptions. Hmmm … well, that’s interesting. Seems too obvious to be true.

Others see Twitter as a step toward the elusive “everything app” based on one of Musk’s cryptic tweets. That’s a little closer to the truth, but what does it mean? To understand what Musk is aiming at with Twitter, we’ve got to move beyond the five things he wants to change about Twitter right away. This task calls for a bigger excavator so we can dig deeper.

To Get to the Bottom of Anything Musk-y, Solve for X

In 2017, Musk bought from PayPal. Neither party disclosed the purchase amount, but Musk was so elated he tweeted about it.

What’s so special about was first an online bank, cofounded by Musk. As early as 1999, Musk saw the potential for internet money and thought that would be his ticket to ushering in an age of financial internet prosperity for everyone. But it didn’t take long for to merge with a competitor and renamed PayPal, which has been instrumental in building the power brokerage of Web2 and fertilizing the soil of several tech icon’s careers. These tech entrepreneurs even have a special name—the PayPal Mafia—to signify their importance to today’s technology landscape.

There’s Musk’s backstory in a nutshell. He’s a payments guy. An internet money geek. A fintech pioneer. It’s no wonder he’s taken an interest in cryptocurrencies.

In a gathering on Spaces just two days ago, Musk disclosed that he still has a vision for payments that involves Twitter. Before that, he filed paperwork with the Financial Crimes Investment Network (FinCEN) to incorporate payments into Twitter. He sees Twitter issuing debit cards, connecting user bank accounts, and processing payments.

Of course, that’s not to say that Twitter is destined to become nothing more than a payments app. I think the plan is so much more. In fact, Musk is on the record as hinting that the U.S. needs something akin to WeChat, what he calls the “everything app,” which is synonymous with “X”.

WeChat is more than a social network. It’s also a messaging service, photo-sharing app, a publishing platform for big brands, an online shopping mall, a restaurant ordering service, bill payments app, and, yes, a payments processor and money transfer facilitator. Additionally, WeChat has an app store that allows users to download mini-apps built within the platform.

A few days before Musk’s Spaces meeting, YouTuber Mark Moss demonstrated that Musk is interested in disrupting payments. That’s certainly going to be a big part of Twitter’s migration to X, but X goes beyond payments, beyond social media, and beyond anything the U.S. has right now.

Elon Musk is an ambitious guy. He wants to colonize Mars, after all. Anyone with that kind of vision isn’t stuck on just one thing, let alone something as mundane as payments. If Musk has his way, Twitter will become WeChat’s biggest competitor. It will pick up where Facebook’s Libra left off, launching crypto payments so stealthily the world’s greatest art thief will ask for advice. And it will go beyond payments to have a bigger global impact than the World Wide Web did three decades ago.

At least, that’s the direction of Musk’s thinking. He wants to outdo John F. Kennedy’s trip to the moon.

Musk is no stranger to the unconventional. He built an ecosystem of electric charging stations to power the Tesla automobiles he manufactures and built the first privately owned liquid-fueled rocket to reach orbit. His next playground may seem like something too far afield for such a visionary to explore, but that would be an underestimation of human imagination.

Twitter’s core component is technology, and technology is in Musk’s blood like hydrogen is in water. Musk’s Twitter will likely incorporate cryptocurrencies. The financial backing of Binance almost ensures some use of blockchain technology and perhaps a long-term trend toward Web3. Sure, there will be ripples of speed bumps along the way as the rest of civilization grapples with Musk’s eccentricities, but his end goal has more to do with how you define X than whether the average Twitter user can spell it. If you’re asking me, TwitterX is about the confluence of everything running through one billionaire’s head. Free—and lawful—speech is just the beginning.

Snark and commentary are in italics. Inclusion of an item doesn’t mean I agree or endorse the ideas presented. Of course, it also doesn’t mean I don’t.

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Cryptocracy is a decentralized newsletter published several times a week. I curate the latest news and crypto analysis from some of the brightest minds in crypto, and sometimes offer a little insightful and snarky commentary. Always fresh, always interesting, and always crypto. Original articles on Fridays.

First published at Cryptocracy. Not to be construed as financial advice. Do your own research.

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1 year ago