Last week marked a significant milestone as Elon Musk unveiled his bold vision for Twitter’s future, rebranding it as “X”. In a tweet, new CEO Linda Yaccarino hinted at the transformative direction, stating that X would revolve around audio, video, messaging, and payments/banking — an essential stride toward his ambitious goal of fashioning the “everything app” for the Western market.
Elon’s fascination with WeChat and its all-encompassing capabilities is not something new; he had repeatedly lauded the Chinese super app prior. Indeed, WeChat has emerged as a virtual Swiss Army knife, offering a myriad of services, from messaging, audio/video functions, and meetings to translation, social networking, shopping, payments, ride-sharing, food delivery, and beyond. Its indispensability in China seems to have left a deep impression on him, who now seeks to emulate that level of indispensability with X in the United States.
Everything All in One
“X”, the character chosen as the symbol for the rebranded Twitter, is intriguingly versatile, serving as a stand-in for a myriad of concepts — a quality that resonates with Elon ‘s grand vision of an “everything app,” transcending the mere realm of communication. While X’s core activity remains unaltered, the rebranding aligns with his ambitions to transform the platform into something far more comprehensive.
The notion of an “everything app” has been a recurring theme in his discussions, drawing inspiration from WeChat—an app that not only facilitates communication akin to WhatsApp but also offers robust payment functionalities. In essence, he envisions a platform that becomes the epicentre of authorisation, communication, and transactions — a single, all-encompassing arena for a multitude of exchanges.
Easy to Dream, Hard to Realise
Amidst the current challenges X is grappling with, it becomes evident that emulating WeChat’s success in the Western market is an exceptionally daunting task. Cultural differences significantly influence user habits, presenting a substantial barrier to creating a WeChat clone in the West.
Furthermore, competitors like Google and Apple already possess their own well-established mobile payment systems. Meta’s impressive user base through Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp adds another layer of competition. If these established tech giants perceive the X platform as a threat to their revenues, they could easily prohibit the X app from their platforms.
Moreover, navigating the labyrinth in the process of securing business deals with banks in the West could potentially delay X’s progress. The United States (US) market, in particular, faces more challenges in digital payment integration compared to the more advanced landscape in the EU.
Despite attempts by industry giants like Meta and Alphabet, building an all-encompassing “everything app” in the Western market has proven elusive. These companies possess substantial advantages — greater financial resources, larger pools of technical talent, stronger public reputation, and more successful app ecosystem ventures. Yet, even with these advantages, none have managed to replicate the WeChat model.
WeChat’s success is intricately tied to the specific context of the Chinese market, making any brute force attempts to transplant it into a vastly different Western context highly risky. The most crucial element of an “everything app” is its payment functionality, as it unlocks immense value for the app and user convenience.
The comparison between WeChat and Western platforms might lack meaningful insights from the outset. WeChat has been the undisputed ruler of China’s digital landscape for a decade, reigning supreme in messaging, social media, mobile banking, and shopping. When it was introduced, it was a ground-breaking innovation with no parallels worldwide.
The habits and preferences ingrained in Chinese citizens through WeChat’s pervasive use might not seamlessly translate to the Western context due to the unique factors already discussed. The divergent cultural and market dynamics could pose significant challenges.
The Man Who Always Plays by His Own Rules
Despite the challenges, Elon remains undeterred to propel X’s transformation into “The Everything App” to a functional level. As his vision unfolds, the competitive landscape becomes an enthralling focal point. Will the app revolutionise how we engage with digital services, or will established players maintain their dominance? Can the key elements that underpin WeChat’s domination be replicated in the Western market?