Before we get into this article about Elon Musk and Twitter, I want to state for the record that I’m still waiting for the leaf blowers.
It’s become the most annoying “will they or won’t they” since Ross and Rachel, but in the last 48 hours we’ve seen good signs that Elon Musk is now likely to become the owner, or at least the majority owner, of Twitter.
What he plans to do with it? Well, that’s the real issue.
This week Musk filed documents with the SEC in which he seemed to say he’s ready to go ahead with the original $54.20 per share offer he made to acquire Twitter, provided Twitter drops its lawsuit against him.
Musk tweeted 11 short words late Tuesday that seemed to close a lot of the loop: “Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app.”
Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app
-; Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 4, 2022
On Wednesday, Reuters reported its sources say the deal is likely to go forward.
Now, I’m hedging the language in my narration (“seen good signs” and “seemed to say,” etc.) because there’s no certainty about a deal like this until it’s actually done.
Case in point: When the world believed erroneously that Musk’s primary residence was a tiny prefabricated house.
But, it’s worth reading tea leaves on what an “everything app” is likely to look like, assuming Musk moves forward. “X” as he refers to it, is the name of Musk’s original company (X.com) that merged to become PayPal.
And Musk teased the idea during Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting in August:
Twitter — since I use it a lot; shoot myself in the foot a lot, dig my grave, etc. — I do understand the product quite well. I think I’ve got a good sense of where to point the engineering team at Twitter to make it radically better.
I do sort of have a grander vision for what I thought X.com or X Corporation could have been back in the day. It’s a pretty grand vision, and obviously that could be started from scratch but I think Twitter would help accelerate that by 3 to 5 years
More detailed supposition comes from Lisa Du and Sebastian Tong of Bloomberg, who think Musk wants to create a Western version of China’s WeChat app. In short:
A “super-app,” with hundreds of millions of people using the app to “book rides, make dining reservations, [and] order food.
A “fintech titan,” which amounts to “one of China’s biggest payments and online finance networks.”
A super-popular news and entertainment portal. “As in the U.S., many younger users increasingly get much of their news through their social media feeds.”
A business economy, with companies creating mini-programs that do roughly $240 billion in annual revenue.
“You basically live on WeChat in China because it’s so useful and so helpful to your daily life,” Musk told Twitter employees at a town hall in June. “And I think if we could achieve that, or even close to that with Twitter, it would be an immense success.”
“You basically live on WeChat in China because it’s so useful and so helpful to your daily life. And I think if we could achieve that, or even close to that with Twitter, it would be an immense success.” https://t.co/Qs2AIeMjRY
-; Sarah Zheng (@_szheng) June 17, 2022
Now, it’s not hard to see why this kind of an app would be highly enticing to Musk or any other super-entrepreneur. You’d control almost everything.
And if you were Musk, looking like you’re quite likely going to be forced into consummating your bid to buy Twitter, it might be a great way to make lemonade out of lemons.
The big problem? Who in the United States or Europe actually wants a giant super-app? Especially one as Bloomberg’s Parmy Olson put it, controlled by “a capricious business titan.
It’s something that Alphabet, Amazon, and even Meta have tried unsuccessfully to create over the years.
Look, I’m agnostic on the outcome here. If Twitter improves under Musk’s leadership, it will grow; if his ownership kills it, people will leave.
A wise person once said there are really only two common business models: bundling and unbundling.
This idea of an X.com everything app seems like the ultimate wager on bundling, and Musk is so deep into so many things — electric cars, self-driving technology, space exploration, Mars settlement — that you have to wonder where the limit is.
Right now, I think I’d bet against bundling.
But I will buy one of the leaf blowers.
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