From Twitter to X, a timeline of events

image of elon musk

Elon Musk killed a verb the day he rebranded Twitter to X, with everyone suddenly wondering what they would be doing if they weren’t “tweeting”? X-ing? Surely not. 

It was one of many questions brought about by the X rebrand. What, for one, did Musk mean when he repeatedly said he wants to turn X into an “everything-app” similar to WeChat in China? 

Some pointed to hidden clues about the company’s future direction in Musk’s filing for a payments license at the end of last year, or Musk repeatedly touting Dogecoin on Twitter, at one point even replacing the Twitter logo with the Doge mascot. Or Musk literally saying he wants to turn Twitter into a payments app. 

There are many what-ifs floating around, so let’s see if we can make sense of his plans by tracking the events that led up to the forming of X, and whether crypto actually features in any of these. 

But first, what is WeChat? 

“You basically live on WeChat in China,” Musk said last year. WeChat is one of the biggest apps in the world with more than a billion users every month. It’s a social media, instant messaging and mobile payment app all rolled into one do-it-all, giant super-app. The Chinese company has the unique advantage of possible competitors like WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook being banned in China, the only country it operates in. But still, a billion users per month… WeChat is not all that far off from what Musk had planned with his first payments company in 2000, called, you guessed it, X. 


Elon Musk and the X brand go way back. In 1999, he co-founded a company called, one of the first online banks, which later became part of a company that eventually became PayPal. 

Musk was ousted from the board due to disagreements about the tech stack and the general direction of the company, but many say Musk’s insistence that the company’s X brand be made more prominent was a large part of his ousting. “PayPal had become a trusted brand name, like a good pal who is helping you get paid,” Musk’s biographer Walter Isaacson wrote. “Focus groups showed that the name, on the contrary, conjured up visions of a seedy site you would not talk about in polite company.” 

“The infatuation of Elon Musk with the name goes way back,” says Isaacson. 

Buying back X 
July 2017

X was the original name of Musk and Peter Thiel’s company that later became PayPal, but PayPal retained the rights to the domain. In 2017, Musk bought back the name from PayPal for at least $1million, according to his biographer. “It’s unclear at the moment Musk’s plans for the site, but the SpaceX and Tesla CEO may plan to use the domain name for a new venture or one of the aforementioned businesses,” Hypebeast reported in 2017. Now we know why.

The Doge, off lead
May 2021

Where to begin with the Doge references. “Dogecoin might be my fav cryptocurrency,” Musk tweeted in April 2019, which marked the beginning of his long and storied history with the memecoin, from repeatedly referencing it on his Twitter profile and mentioning it during a Saturday Night Live appearance, to temporarily replacing Twitter’s blue-bird logo with a picture of a Shiba Inu dog, the coin’s mascot. 

In 2019, Dogecoin developer Ross Nicoll told Decrypt that Musk started talking to the team of developers in 2019, and “encouraged them to improve the higher transaction throughput,” along with giving “lots of advice and input.”

Buying Twitter 
October 2022

Musk famously bought Twitter in October last year for the princely sum of $44 billion. “There has been much speculation about why I bought Twitter and what I think about advertising,” he said in an open letter following the deal. “Most of it has been wrong.”

He said in a later call to Tesla shareholders, “I’m excited about the Twitter situation. I think it’s an asset that has just sort of languished for a long time but has incredible potential.”

And much later after all had been said and done, Musk explained to talk show host Bill Maher this year that he bought Twitter to give equal voice to different opinions on the platform. “That’s really why I did the acquisition,” Musk said. “It wasn’t because I thought this was an easy way to make money or something like that.” It seems that money must have featured in the plans somewhere, given the latest push to turn X into a super-app. 

Filing for payments licenses 
November 2022

Then still Twitter, the company registered with the US treasury as a payments processor in November last year. The Financial Times reported that Twitter had also begun applying for the state licenses it would need to launch a payments platform. 

The New York Times reported that Musk mentioned in an early pitch to investors that Twitter could bring in $1.3 billion in payments revenue by 2028. 

From Twitter to X 
July 2023

On a Sunday evening in July, the blue bird logo was culled and replaced by a stylised X. After more than 10 years, Twitter the brand was no more. Musk had come full circle in finally putting the X brand back up on his company’s building. 

“The app itself has become a cultural phenomenon in all sorts of ways,” Mike Proulx, a vice president and research director at Forrester, remarked to the New York Times. “In one fell swoop, Elon Musk has essentially wiped out 15 years of brand value from Twitter and is now essentially starting from scratch.” Musk didn’t have any of it. “I like the letter X,” he posted the same day the sign was taken down. 

Trading on X?
August 2023

“Real-time information is a powerful force, especially in the world of investing,” read a recent request by X sent to big-data providers in which the company asked for proposals for financial content, real-time stock data, and other features. 

Some took this request as an indication that Musk may be looking for business partners to help build out a trading platform on X. 

“X is an increasingly important part of the DIY investing community… We are hugely excited to see how X will develop and are in close contact with the team around future projects,” trading platform eToro told Semafor. 

There are doubters, though. Writing for Semafor, Liz Hoffman makes the point that Musk “assumes the West even needs a super-app, or that finance needs to be a big part of it. They skipped the part where X would have to retrain consumers and unseat banks’ own apps, which are quite good, and credit-card networks, which are quite entrenched.”

It remains unclear whether cryptocurrencies will ever form part of Musk’s plans to turn X into a do-it-all super-app, and the rumours are mostly hearsay based on his past interest in the technology. With Musk, it’s as likely as it is unlikely. The man does love his Doge, though. 

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