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Karlin Lillington: X? Really? Really, Elon Musk? X?

‘Those rump members left on Musk’s comic book X-world should probably start thinking about alternatives’

X is the spiffy new name (if you are, say, 13 years old) that tiresome billionaire Elon Musk has come up with as a replacement for that blasted place formerly known as Twitter.

You remember Twitter, the “public square” that, post Musk purchase, is withering into a global marketplace for cryptocurrency mavens attempting to offload the virtual coinage to each other. Give that man a poop emoji.

To be fair, the site still boasts a decent rump of people, the kind of active users that once made TwitterX an interesting place to be. For me, that was a mix of political and social commentators, scientists and researchers, tech and privacy experts, and creative folks of all sorts.

But they’re now soldered on to an ungainly torso comprising the types of people who rushed to buy Musk’s going-cheap blue tick accounts to validate, I don’t know, something. Their egos, their search engine optimisation or crypto hype, or their right-wing views.


On the “going concern” side, TwitterX continues to be the strangest show in the social media town. Musk once loved the platform, or if not the platform, at least the ability to incessantly use it to express odd business and personal views and — in what is admittedly a crowded field — the most boring sense of humour in techdom.

But he is slow clapping TwitterX into meaninglessness, if not oblivion. I can’t remember anything like it in 25 years of writing about the technology industry.

So many more productive ways exist to rid yourself of $44 billion (€40 billion), the amount Musk paid for Twitter. I’m sure you could think of a few. But to blow it all to buy struggling, overpriced Twitter, and then grind your heel into what value still remains in the beleaguered bird site, is quite a demonstration of a very personal brand of business ... one hesitates to call it acumen.

Rebranding to something that sounds like the forlorn offspring of a porn hub and a discussion site for gaming platform enthusiasts immediately knocked off an estimated $4 to $20 million of brand value, depending on various brand experts Bloomberg spoke to during the week.

It’s incomprehensible that he’d throw away the bird and the term “tweet”, a word that, like “google”, has become a lower-case noun and verb in common global use and a route for significant public statements by politicians, celebrities, activists, and national and global organisations.

The site now looks increasingly like a better-capitalised version of Trump’s rival network, Truth Social. The heart (and the mind) sink upon reading Musk — ‘X’ed? Tweeted?

What the heck are we supposed to say? — that the site “was acquired by X Corp both to ensure freedom of speech and as an accelerant for X, the everything app”.

Oh no. And oh yes, the “X Corporation”. Perhaps, like most of the world, you failed to notice or care that Musk had changed Twitter’s parent company name to the X Corporation months ago. It’s all so retro-50′s pulp fiction, except that it doesn’t carry the creative lightheartedness of that era and just sounds dad-joke dumb.

Perhaps more insight is offered by the fact that, once Musk’s Ministry of Silly Names coughed out the X rebrand, Musk also revealed: “In the months to come, we will add comprehensive communications and the ability to conduct your entire financial world.”

This, from the ardent promoter of the Dogecoin cryptocurrency. Twitter has already been used for Musk’s own cryptomarketing. Back in April, as crypto values were tanking due to company failures and indictments of some people involved with various crypto companies, Musk projected Dogecoin’s Shiba Inu dog logo on the side of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, prompting the coin’s market value to rise by $4 billion. Yep.

Really, those rump members left on Musk’s comic book X-world should probably start thinking about alternatives. Whatever TwitterX ends up being — if it survives at all — it won’t be a “public square” of influential or quotable public discourse any more than bored ape NFTs represent the future of global investment.

The thing is, as long as all these moves are legal, Musk has every right to do this and whatever else he wants with his $44 billion purchase. That, as Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote this week, is what capitalism is all about. You can drive your purchase into a wall, which in TwitterX’s case, might now be a good thing.

But TwitterX’s slow-crumble into two vast and trunkless legs of stone in a discourse desert obscures the fact that profit-seeking corporate social media platforms based on monetising user data and driven by targeted advertising were never a true public square any more than EuroDisney is.

Sure, flee to Threads, Instagram, Snapchat or any other commercial, for-profit platform, but it’s all the same. You’re in corporate-controlled marketplaces, not true public squares. You and your data — your “free” speech and your activities — are the product; you are also the advertising target. The public square bit is just a potentially ephemeral marketplace byproduct, not the intent.