While Elon Musk’s “everything app” vision is still too far out on the horizon for almost anybody else to make out, we are beginning to get some more indicators as to where X is headed, in regards to facilitating payments and banking, as well as advanced video-optimization features.
The latter is set to incorporate the latest developments from Musk’s other company, Tesla, which is now embarking on the next phase of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) push, via an advanced system that uses video footage from other Tesla self-driving tests to “learn” correct driving behaviors.
Last week, Musk conducted a live test of Tesla’s new FSD beta, while also streaming and narrating the experience on X.
In the video, Musk explains how the system isn’t coded to analyze certain visual signals and respond accordingly, as other self-driving processes have been. Instead, the new Tesla FSD system is basing its learning on video inputs, in order to act more like a human driver. This self-educating loop, Musk says, represents a significant advance in computer vision, which uses real-world examples of behavior, as opposed to a more technical, rules-based approach. That should eventually make Telsa’s FSD more adaptable, and more responsive to a wider range of inputs, which could take it to the next stage of evolution for the technology.
Expanding on this, it seems likely that X will eventually look to incorporate a similar learning process into videos posted to the app, in order to learn more about what generates the most interest, and how to better customize your video experience, based on what you engage with.
This is somewhat similar to how TikTok has approached its video matching, in order to create a more compelling, even addictive, “For You” feed.
TikTok’s advanced computer vision system can identify a broad range of elements within each uploaded clip. At a basic level, TikTok can identify, for example, dancing, male/female people, cars, dogs, etc. But it actually goes much deeper than that, with TikTok’s system also able to identify body type and shape, specific clothing, race, ethnicity, gestures and actions, background elements, etc.
The more the system can identify, the more it can match you with content that aligns with your interests. Which is also slightly concerning, in that TikTok can also fetishize certain elements, by feeding them to users based on their preferences. But the emphasis is on increasingly complex entity detection, in order to better understand what exactly you like, and what’s likely to keep you watching in the app.
X could soon have similar, with a more advanced video ID process that takes into account an expanded range of inputs.
X is already trying to drive more video discovery, by improving its video feed, and updating its live-streaming options, while it’s also considering a new UI that would better highlight its own TikTok-style full-screen display. And with former NBCUniversal ad chief Linda Yaccarino now in charge at the app, it seems logical that streaming video will become a much bigger focus, as X looks to become a bigger source of entertainment, as another step in its everything app plan.
Though other changes at the app could also make adoption more challenging.
In particular, X’s emphasis on paid accounts is hurting its product, because the main discovery stream, its “For You” feed, is now so flooded with blue tick accounts that it’s not as useful, or valuable as it could be.
Conceptually, the push towards subscriptions makes sense. X wants to battle bots, while also bringing in more money, and ideally, reducing its reliance on ad intake. Subscriptions touches on all of these elements, but right now, the X Premium (formerly Twitter Blue) offering is not attractive enough to most users, which is why take-up remains very low.
At present, around 700k users have signed up to the subscription program, which represents around 0.3% of Twitter’s total, 250 million active user base. And most of those accounts are rabid Elon Musk fans, which means the For You feed is largely being filled out with praise for Tesla, political takes, or bad posts that a user is paying to amplify, in order to maximize attention.
And with the introduction of X’s ad revenue share program, there are also now a lot more engagement-baiting posts appearing in the For You stream, as subscribers look to maximize replies, in order to earn money for ads shown in the comments.
That’s turning many users away from X’s key discovery surface, and with the “Following” tab a swipe away, it’s easy to avoid the main pathway that X could use to boost exposure for relevant videos in the app.
Which is likely why it’s looking to change up the UI, but it does seem like the added emphasis on blue tick accounts could harm the product, and potentially negate the gains of a more advanced video system.
But we can see where things are headed, and where Elon and Co. are steering the app, as they continue to chart a new course forward.
This is the first stage in facilitating a broader set of payment options in the app, which is the foundational element of Elon’s plan for the platform. Eventually, Musk’s looking to build a more advanced version of PayPal into the app, including payment and banking options, with low-to-no-cost transactions, interest-free loans, bill payments, and more.
If Elon can make this happen, the view is that, eventually, people simply won’t need credit cards anymore, they’ll just scan their X user barcode to make payments in real life, merging their on and offline transactions in a more seamless, convenient way.
No fees, instant transfers, and a more connected shopping experience. And from there, X will integrate advanced, native shopping options, and more financial tools, which could eventually see it become, in Elon’s view, a trillion-user platform.
Optimism, at least at this stage, is a key element, because while X has gained initial approval on some new payment elements, it remains to be seen if it’ll be able to gain full licensing for all of these planned elements. Meta, for example, has been trying for years to secure full payment licensing, and it’s still battling to expand Meta Pay to more regions, while the recent crypto flame-out has left regulators increasingly wary of alternative financial solutions.
In other words, it’s going to be a long process, and in the short term, X’s results could look terrible, as it works to establish the best way forward.
But maybe, far off on the horizon, the next stage for X is slowly coming into view.