It’s hard to assess where X is placed right now, in terms of its long-term vision, and whether it’s even possible for the platform to become the “everything app” that its new team foresees.
That, in part, is because X keeps putting out radically optimistic projections, and unprecedented usage stats and figures, which make it difficult to understand whether its new initiatives are succeeding, and driving new opportunities, or whether the broader reduction in X ad spend is reflective of its market position. Couple with reduced staff capacity, and negative reports about its updated approach to content moderation, and it seems like X is in trouble, but maybe it isn’t, and maybe it will be able to weather this initial storm, as it looks to re-imagine the app in its new persona.
This week, X held the first meet-up of its newly reformed Client Council, within which, the new X management team, led by CEO Linda Yaccarino, presented a full overview of its latest developments, and where it’s hoping to be in the near term.
a hint of what's to come... (in higher res) pic.twitter.com/bMeKX1bgb7— Linda Yaccarino (@lindayaX) September 21, 2023
Note: The original version of this video was replaced after users noted that it included example tweets that were critical of Elon Musk.
It’s a fairly typical, upbeat presentation for ad partners, though most of the new features are not game-changers, as such.
In summary, the above video presentation highlights:
- Long-form blog posts on X
- Listening to Spaces in the docked player, while engaging in the app
- Video calls
- Money transfers between users (though there’s no specific example of this)
- Creator subscriptions
- Product listings in-app
- Multi-format video playback
- Creator ad revenue share
- Job listings (X Hiring)
All of these have already been released in some form, though in-stream payments and shopping, two of the key elements of Elon Musk’s “everything app” push, both seem unfinished as yet.
What looks to be X’s in-stream payments example is seemingly not complete, with a message showing cash bag emojis, instead of an actual transfer notification.
X is still in the process of securing payments licenses to facilitate this element, so it seems it still has some way to go. But eventually, I imagine that this is supposed to look more like payment transfers in Messenger, with a notification of the payment specifics.
On in-app shopping, X/Twitter has been experimenting with in-app product listings for years, with this exact display type available to some brands since 2021.
Older variations also had product displays on selected user profiles, but as yet, this doesn’t facilitate shopping in-stream, it just reverts users to the actual product listing on another website to convert.
That, I also assume, will eventually become a more self-contained process, with the transaction itself to be facilitated within the X app, keeping users engaged, while also providing more opportunity to cater to a broader range of use cases.
But again, they’re not there yet, so as noted, this presentation is more window dressing, more putting a new sheen on older products and examples, with not really much innovation or advances of major significance as yet.
Which makes sense. Again, X culled over 80% of its staff following Musk’s acquisition of the company, while it’s also been cutting costs wherever it can, including switching off data centers, and deleting extraneous code to streamline the app and its management. Within that, getting the time and resources to create any new elements is no doubt a challenge, and in this respect, it’s impressive that X has been able to push out any new features at all, let alone the platform-changing additions that Musk has in mind.
They may well be coming, but as we’ve noted previously, the vast majority of the updates that X has rolled out over the past nine months, since Musk took over the app, were actually old projects that were already close to launch, which Musk and Co. pushed out. That’s given the impression of rapid innovation, despite these predominantly being older initiatives.
The challenge for X now is how it gets these next big elements moving, given that there are no more shelved projects in waiting, and it has far fewer staff to lean on for its updates.
Clearly, it is moving, and it does have a vision in mind for the next stage, based on these examples. But it’ll take time to develop, due to payment approvals, backend integrations, new UI updates, etc.
X is still working out how to best rationalize its staff in this respect. Reports this week suggest that X is outsourcing some of its ad sales to Google, as a means to both bring in more revenue and reduce the workload on its own staff. X is also looking to work with a third party on its new ID verification process, and maybe, that’s indicative of where X is headed, in partnering with outside vendors to facilitate more functions and processes, which it will then use to establish new partnerships moving forward.
That may free up X’s own teams to focus on building the next stage. Though again, it has already added job listings, expanded video, and creator revenue share, while it’s also working on new live-streaming offerings too.
X is getting things done, but at present, a lot of what Yaccarino and Co. are selling is not new, it’s just a dressed up version of what Twitter had always been. X, as yet, is not anywhere near its final form, which Elon himself would no doubt acknowledge. But as it moves towards that next stage, it still needs ad investment, and it needs to get brand partners excited about its new elements, even if they’re not here as yet.
So it seems like X is pitching brands more on the promise of what’s to come, not what’s here yet.
Which makes it difficult to assess. Will X succeed in its “everything app” goals? Maybe, if it can get all of these elements into line, and drive more usage, then maybe, with payments and shopping in-stream, along with subscriptions, video calls, and more, maybe it’ll all come together, and form this new super platform that Elon envisions.
But maybe not. On balance, it’s an almost impossible goal, and one which many other social apps have failed at.
Does that mean that Elon will fail as well? Most would be hesitant to bet against him, given the success that he’s been able to achieve in other “impossible” sectors and projects.
But it’s a way off, and while X logically wants to present an optimistic vision, even that vision, in itself, is incomplete as yet.