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Musk, Twitter & the everything app

Elon Musk has reversed his position on Twitter, reintroducing his $44 billion acquisition offer. He also teased a prospective vision for the social media network, tweeting, "Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app." But what exactly is X, the everything app? Here's what you should know.

What is an everything app?

The everything app, sometimes known as a "super app," is a term used to describe an application that provides users with a variety of services such as texting, social networking, direct payment systems, and online shopping. Super applications are extremely popular in Asia, where mobile devices are the primary means of accessing the internet. Because of their accomplishments, tech businesses around the world have attempted to replicate the concept.

While Musk hasn't commented on what X would look like, many believe he's aiming to mimic the popularity of WeChat, which has effectively become China's everything app. People use it to read the news, hail rides, schedule doctor's appointments, pay taxes, and perform a variety of other daily tasks.

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Musk has recently promoted the need for a super app in the United States and hopes to respond to this need by turning Twitter into such an app. «If you're in China, you kind of live on WeChat, because it's so usable and helpful to daily life, It's really an excellent app, and we don't have anything like that outside of China... and I think if we can achieve that, or even get close to that at Twitter, it would be an enormous success» he said at a town hall event with Twitter employees.

Examples of super apps

According to estimates, the Chinese mega app WeChat has over 1.2 billion monthly users and is a big part of daily life in China, with some users spending up to a third of their waking life on it. Because of its extensive range of functions, including text messaging, broadcast messaging, video conferencing, video games, photo and video sharing, and location sharing, the app has been dubbed China's "app for everything." People can also use the app to hail a ride-share or taxi, mail money to friends and family, and pay for goods. Another big player across the world is AliPay which is no stranger to the eCommerce scene and is well on track to serve 2 billion customers globally.

But WeChat and AliPay are not the only players in town. Another leading super app across Southeast Asia is called Grab. It offers food delivery, ride-sharing, on-demand package delivery, and financial services. There's also Indonesia's GoJek and India's PayTM, which let you do things like book a manicure, order motorcycle fuel, pay a traffic fine, and buy gold.

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While super applications like these have already become an essential part of daily life in many regions of Asia in recent years, they do not yet exist in the West. And Musk's enthusiasm for such apps hints that things may change in the near future.

Competition & social challenges

Although adding more tools and services to Twitter could help Musk achieve his company's high growth targets, developing a "super app" in the US would be no easy effort, especially considering the number of big hitters with similar ambitions. Facebook and Instagram, for example, are already pushing into e-commerce, while Amazon is expanding into all aspects of daily life and Walmart is moving into digital banking.

To boost the adoption of a new payments service modelled after WeChat Pay, Musk would need to forge agreements with other digital behemoths. Given their existing market dominance and control over user data, tech companies such as Amazon, Uber, Facebook, and Square are unlikely to join a hypothetical X super app. Musk would essentially be pitting himself against established internet titans with hundreds of millions of users and their own payment systems if he followed the WeChat approach.

Aside from commercial competitiveness, there are also concerns about customer privacy. WeChat's success is exciting, but do the American people desire a similar app? WeChat exemplifies the major fear about super-apps: with everyone doing almost everything on just a few platforms, these apps end up accumulating a massive mine of data on people and potentially wielding considerable control over daily lives. How such data is handled and to what degree governments should have access to it will be a topic of discussion in countries where privacy is highly valued.

In short

Elon Musk has been back and forth on a $44 billion plan to acquire Twitter. However, it appears that he will eventually buy the social media company. It is unclear what this means for Twitter. But one thing is certain: Musk appears determined to deliver the first US "app for everything."

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