In a continuing effort to exit from a revenue death spiral, Twitter replaced its iconic blue and white bird logo with a simple “X” early Monday morning. The change follows a series of seemingly off-the-cuff tweets from Elon Musk, the bombastic billionaire who was forced to buy the social media site last November. According to Musk’s tweets and internal communications to Twitter employees, this is not a temporary change: The bird imagery and Twitter domain will be de-emphasized, if not abandoned entirely, in the near future. The X.com domain now redirects to Twitter.
Twitter has used its bird imagery since the company’s founding in 2006, and the previous blue bird logo was adopted in 2012. According to Twitter’s current CEO Linda Yaccarino, whom Musk designated as his replacement weeks ago (while still owning the now-private company), the new logo and name reflect a new and broader scope for the company. “X will be the platform that can deliver, well…everything,” she said in a tweet (or possibly an X?) on Sunday evening.
This language mirrors previous indications from Musk that he wants Twitter to become an “everything app,” a broad idea for a service that can handle such diverse tasks as instant messaging, ride-sharing, gaming, and perhaps most importantly, mobile payments and money transfers. This would mirror Musk’s acquisition of an earlier version of PayPal more than 20 years ago, which he merged with his now-shuttered online banking service X.com, where the “X” branding appears to originate. Market analysts suspect that Musk is trying to emulate the success of the WeChat social platform, which has been attempted and failed by many outside its home territory of China.
Abandoning the Twitter name, logo, and brand is a move charitably described as “unconventional.” While it’s true that companies like Facebook and Google have broadened their diverse interests into “umbrella” parent companies (Meta and Alphabet, respectively), in both cases they have kept their core branding intact, and don’t use the new company name in places where the original brand still has value.
Despite failing to turn a profit in its nearly two decades of operation, Twitter’s former popularity with social media users and celebrities, eventually spreading to the world’s biggest brands and even political leaders, has made it a literal household name. When superheroes use Twitter in multi-billion-dollar movies, blurring the lines between the real and fictional worlds, your brand has reached a level of zeitgeist that marketers spend tens of billions of dollars to achieve. Musk appears to have abandoned that branding in favor of a name for an online bank that became obsolete before many of Twitter’s most active users were even born.
The rebrand follows a series of baffling decisions that have left Twitter (or indeed, X) worth only a fraction of its value from less than a year ago. Relaxed user and post moderation has made the service a lightning rod for posts promoting hatred and violence, putting swaths of essential features behind the Twitter Blue paywall has tanked engagement and made it vulnerable to new competitors, and deliberately restricting API access to kill off third-party mobile apps has alienated the service’s former power users. As of May the service’s ad sales (which make up the vast majority of its income) had dropped by nearly 60 precent.