It’s not every day someone buys a company for $44 billion and wipes out their brand a few months later. But if anything is Elon Musk it is unpredictable. Killing the ‘Twitter’ brand to embrace the ‘X’ brand, on the other hand, is slightly predictable, because if we know anything about him, it is that he lives in a permanent obsession with the letter ‘X’.
X.com was the name of his second company, the seed of PayPal; SpaceX came later; next was Tesla… with his Model XXai he arrived this year to compete against OpenAI, and now Twitter becomes X. He even named his son X Æ A-Xii (nickname ‘X’) in a move that the anthropologists will figure it out when the time comes.
The story of that obsession began in the nineties.
Q, X, or Z
Although one might expect the obsession with the X to have sexual connotations, which is not to be blamed for someone who also seems prone to using the number 69 often, or naming Tesla cars to form the word S3XY (the ‘E’). ‘ was replaced by a ‘3’ to avoid legal problems); the story is different.
Julie Anderson Ankenbradnt, an executive at PayPal during the early years of the company’s life, helped to understand this origin in a question on Quora in 2016 that asked her directly what she thought about the ‘X.com’ brand.
There was a night when Elon and the rest of the founders of X.com (they were his friends from Canada, it was before the company was known as PayPal) we sat around a table in the back of a bar that disappeared A long time ago, the Blue Chalk, in Palo Alto.
We were trying to decide what the name of the company should be. At that time, early 1999, the intention was to build a revolutionary full-service financial platform (credit cards, mutual funds, and standard bank details all in one place, go figure! 🙂) and the question was whether it should be Q , X or Z dot com.
While they were heatedly discussing the existing associations of these particular letters, I was scribbling hideous logo ideas on a napkin. Headstrong personalities, you know. Finally, when the waitress brought the next round of drinks, Elon asked her what she thought, and she said that she liked X.com. Elon slammed the table and said, “That’s it then!” and everyone laughed, but in the end that was more or less how it was decided.
I agreed with the waitress that it was the best option among the three. We always knew that properly branding it would cost an exorbitant amount of money due to the pornographic connotations of the letter X, but in the end that never materialized due to the company’s track record. Still, we made some nice debit cards.
And he accompanied his testimony with this image:
If we pay attention to Ankenbrandt’s explanation, the choice of a waitress out of three options (Q, X, Z) ended up being capital for Elon Musk’s business future. His devotion to the X continued for many more years.
In 2017, he bought back the X.com domain from PayPal and publicly thanked the company for allowing him to have it back. He also said that he had no plans for the domain then, but that he had “great sentimental value” for him.
The sentimental value of nostalgia for that time, that of his business beginnings, to which he has referred on more than one occasion and which for a reason gave his son his name.
Already at that time, another user responded by suggesting that using that domain as an “umbrella website” for his other companies might make sense, to which Musk replied that it was probably the best use he could give it.
Now we know that his plans include turning Twitter into a super app, and he has already taken the first steps to change his brand to ‘X’, closing the circle that a waitress from a bar that has since disappeared in 1999 opened.
In Xataka | Goodbye Twitter, hello X: what Elon Musk intends with the latest radical turn of the platform.
Featured Image | Xataka with Midjourney.