Elon Musk is planning to turn Twitter into a super app called X.
Super apps are popular in many countries, but haven’t caught on in the US. Industry experts are skeptical that Twitter may actually be the American super app.
Elon Musk wants to build a US super app, but industry experts have some concerns. A super app, or “everything app”, as Musk called it, is a multi-use app that serves as a one-stop shop for users.
Super apps include everything from money transfer services, social media and messaging to food delivery, car hailing and video games. The US has no super apps, but the concept is prevalent in other countries such as WeChat and Alipay in China, Grab in Southeast Asia and Mercado Libre in Latin America, to name a few.
Elon Musk is no stranger to financial services, having co-founded PayPal. And while he hasn’t publicly revealed detailed plans for the super app, recent developments on Twitter offer some clues.
He expressed his intention to turn Twitter into a super app called “X” before taking over in October 2022. At the beginning of the year, Twitter applied for a license to facilitate in-app payments. Earlier this month, Musk reportedly merged Twitter with a shell company called X Corp, and on April 13, the company announced a partnership with social trading platform eToro.
Insider spoke with five analysts, consultants and fintech executives to find out what obstacles Musk must overcome to successfully launch the super app.
Many doubted that his plan could be realized, as they anticipated that Musk would face challenges related to regulation, entrenched incumbents, American consumer behavior, and his polarizing reputation. But the billionaire’s impressive track record also means that anything is possible.
Twitter’s press email automatically responded with a poop emoji when Insider contacted for comment. For starters, some experts said Twitter is a strange place to build a super app.
For a super app to be successful, it needs to have a powerful social network, Christopher Miller, an emerging payments analyst at Javelin, told Insider. A super app needs to incentivize users to sign up, such as a user downloading Venmo because their friends use it.
And while Twitter has already amassed a sizeable user base in the US, Miller doesn’t believe people who aren’t already on Twitter will start using it for the additional super-app offerings.
“Why are people on a given network in the first place?” Miller said. “If they are for social impact, then certainly they can use financial products, but they are not going to come for financial products.”
To be sure, Musk is no stranger to building financial offerings. One of his early companies, x.com, merged with Confinity, which became PayPal.
Experts clearly favor companies such as Apple, Block, PayPal, WhatsApp and Amazon to be super apps due to their technical infrastructure and existing capabilities such as payment processing, messaging and e-commerce.
Further complicating the strategy is Visa’s interoperable peer-to-peer payments offering, Visa+, which was announced on April 11. Visa+ will allow users to send and receive money from Venmo to payment platforms such as PayPal.
If Visa+ is successful and interoperability becomes the norm, “that network effect goes off the table,” Miller said, because it allows consumers to access their financial services instead of using one-size-fits-all.
“It doesn’t make sense to me why you’re making it up behind Twitter,” Jason Mikula, fintech analyst and writer for Fintech Business Weekly, told Insider. “It basically looks like it wants to build a new version of PayPal.” Experts also wonder who would want to partner with Musk given his divisive public persona.
Mikula said that part of what made the Alipay and WeChat models successful was “being open to third-party developers in the form of these mini-apps or mini-programs.”
“I really wonder which rational, responsible business executive would want to trust Elon or partner with Twitter,” he said. Twitter, which has been in the news since Musk’s initial bid last year, recently hit headlines after some users removed the blue check mark.
A fintech and payments analyst doesn’t expect the current person to get a chance to work with Musk.