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Twitter's new logo is an X. Musk says it's part of the transition to everything app

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Twitter is now X. Elon Musk has ditched the company's famous blue bird for an X logo. Musk says it's part of a radical change he hopes to make, turning Twitter from a social media platform into an everything app. Well, we are joined by NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn. Hey, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.

KELLY: I can't keep up. Twitter - it's a globally recognized brand. Why change the name?

ALLYN: Well, ever since Musk took over Twitter, he's been talking about this moonshot goal - right? - expanding Twitter to become the everything app, as you mentioned. So that would include banking services, online shopping, ordering an Uber and so on - for the app to become an all-in-one app, right? In China, this sort of super app exists. It's called WeChat. And Musk says the U.S. ought to have one. Musk is now projecting an X on Twitter's San Francisco headquarters. He's replaced the company's blue bird with an X on the app. He's really trying to push this new X identity. But what's really notable, Mary Louise, is he's doing this while not offering any new services. I talked to Joshua White about this. He's a finance professor at Vanderbilt University. And White told me that the name change looks like a desperate attention grab. And he says, you know, changing the name of a company after 17 years without offering anything new, it just doesn't make much business sense.

JOSHUA WHITE: It's sort of like buying Coca-Cola and ditching the iconic bottle but not changing the formula.

KELLY: OK. And the name X - why X?

ALLYN: Musk has long been enamored with X. Back in the late '90s, he founded an online company called X.com that later merged with another firm and became PayPal. Musk's other company, Tesla, has a popular vehicle called the Model X. One of his children has a name that is shortened to X. And well before launching this rebrand, Musk changed the parent company of Twitter to X Holdings. He wrote yesterday on Twitter that he likes the letter X, which seems pretty clear, doesn't it?

(LAUGHTER)

ALLYN: So why X? Why is Elon obsessed with X? That's a question I don't have an - the answer to. You know, some historians of Elon Musk say it's probably sentimental. As I mentioned, his wealth has roots in his early company, X.com. So, you know, maybe it's some kind of nostalgic nod to that.

KELLY: Well, maybe you could tweet at him and ask him or whatever we're calling it now. You could X at him.

ALLYN: I'll X at him.

KELLY: Yeah. What kind of reaction are you hearing on Twitter or X or whatever it is?

ALLYN: Yeah, people are mocking it. One pointed out that the name and logo of the app is now the universal symbol for deleting something, which of course is relevant since so many people are fleeing Twitter right now. As we know, tweeting is part of our everyday language. So if we can no longer say we're tweeting, then - what, are we X-ing (ph), right? What are we even doing on this site anymore? Now, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey didn't seem so bothered by X. He wrote that, quote, "the Twitter brand carries a lot of baggage" and that all that matters is the utility it provides, not the name. OK, thanks, Jack Dorsey for that. But look, Mary Louise, tech companies changed their names. Facebook became Meta. Google became Alphabet. So Twitter becoming X is just the latest. But I'm not so sure it's going to be an easy sell to the public.

KELLY: Well, and if the grand plan here is to have an everything app, how real is that? How close are we?

ALLYN: Yeah, it's really a pipe dream right now. It's unclear if he can ever make that happen. There are numerous challenges to making a super app in the U.S., especially since regulators in Washington have become wary of any one tech company having too much control over our digital lives. But White, the Vanderbilt professor, made another point. Twitter has been tumultuous since day one of Musk's reign - devastating layoffs, advertising collapsing. So who would want to use that kind of app for shopping or sending money to friends?

WHITE: Transacting in money and transacting online takes trust. You've got to know that the platform you're using has good cybersecurity, and I think a lot of consumers and users of Twitter have lost trust.

KELLY: All right. That is closing on our reporting today from NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn. Thanks, Bobby.

ALLYN: Thanks, Mary Louise.

(SOUNDBITE OF DMX SONG, "X GON' GIVE IT TO YA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.

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