What Does X Mean to Elon Musk?

Elon Musk proposed on Monday to acquire Twitter at $54.20 a share, a surprise return to his original $44 billion deal with the company after months of trying to terminate it. In April, as the acquisition came together, Mr. Musk said he wanted to own Twitter so people could speak more freely on the platform.

On Tuesday, though, Mr. Musk shared another motivation for buying the social media company, tweeting: “Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app.”

Mr. Musk, the richest man in the world and the chief executive of the auto company Tesla, has been thin on details about what an “everything app” would look like. But he has expressed interest in making a worldwide social media platform modeled after WeChat, which is owned by the Chinese technology giant Tencent.

In China, WeChat is used by more than a billion people as an all-in-one social media, instant messaging and mobile payment app. Used to order food, hail cabs and find news, it is sewn into the fabric of daily life. Mr. Musk has said that if a similar app were used by enough people worldwide to communicate, it could establish a payment system as well.

“I think such an app would be really useful. And just the utility of sort of a spam-free thing where you could make comments, you could post videos — I think it’s important for content creators to have a revenue share,” Mr. Musk said on a podcast in May.

In August, when a Twitter user asked Mr. Musk whether he had considered creating his own social platform, he replied, “X.com.” Earlier that month, at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting, Mr. Musk said he had “a pretty grand vision” for X as “something that would be very useful to the world.”

Mr. Musk has not publicly offered a plan or timeline for X. But he has said that, despite not being necessary to create X, “Twitter probably accelerates X by three to five years.” Should Mr. Musk acquire Twitter, it is unclear if he would make X from scratch using parts of Twitter, or turn Twitter into X.

During a question-and-answer session with Twitter employees in June, Mr. Musk said that he views the company as a digital town square “essential for a functioning democracy” but that it ought to include as much of the world as possible. To encourage people to use and stay on the platform, it should be more all-encompassing, like WeChat, he said.

In 2020, a Twitter user proposed that Mr. Musk create X “to ensure human survival and progress.” This version of X would be the parent company of Tesla, SpaceX, his brain computer company Neuralink and his tunnel construction company the Boring Company, the user suggested. Mr. Musk called the proposal a “good idea.” Whether X is meant to be a conglomeration of Mr. Musk’s companies, a global WeChat or something else is unknown.

X is also the name of the three holding companies Mr. Musk registered in Delaware to acquire Twitter. If the acquisition takes place, X Holdings I would function as Twitter’s parent company, X Holdings II would buy Twitter and X Holdings III would fund the deal, according to regulatory filings.

Mr. Musk has said he has “a fondness for the letter X.” X is how Mr. Musk publicly refers to his first child with Claire Boucher, the musician known as Grimes, but his history with the letter dates back to at least 1999, when he helped found X.com, an online bank.

In 2000, X.com merged with Confinity, a competing software company. In 2001, Peter Thiel, one of Confinity’s founders, replaced Mr. Musk as X.com’s chief executive, and the company was renamed PayPal.

In 2017, Mr. Musk bought the domain for X.com from PayPal. The website currently directs to a blank white page, save a black lowercase “x” in the upper left corner. A separate page, X.com/x, directs to a page with a lowercase “y,” which is the nickname of Mr. Musk’s second child with Grimes.

When Mr. Musk bought the domain, he tweeted: “Thanks PayPal for allowing me to buy back X.com! No plans right now, but it has great sentimental value to me.”

The plans, it now seems, have to do with “everything.”

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