In Limbo: Will Elon Musk ever buy Twitter and make it a 'Super App'?
With Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase in limbo, many are trying to forecast the billionaire’s goals with (or without) the social media company in the coming years. In particular, some have pointed out Musk’s high praise for one Chinese platform, with many saying that the billionaire and Tesla CEO could be looking to turn Twitter into the first U.S. “Super App.” That is (see infographic below) — if he decides to move forward with the deal.
Above: Elon Musk with U.S. Air Force Academy cadets. (Photo: Justin Pacheco / Wikimedia Commons)
Assuming the deal eventually happens, Musk may be looking to create a super app out of Twitter, featuring a more expansive business model that looks more similar to what the Chinese platform WeChat offers, according to statements from Musk reported by Forbes. In the past, Musk has noted praise for WeChat, including its expansive business model encompassing messaging, social media and payments — and eliminating the need for ad revenue altogether.
“There’s no WeChat equivalent out of China,” Musk said at his first town hall meeting with Twitter staff last month. “There’s a real opportunity to create that.”
Musk isn’t the only entrepreneur to note WeChat’s success, with many of Silicon Valley’s wealthy tech-heads trying to replicate the model to no avail, including Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel. Founded by Tencent, WeChat is considered a super app for its far-reaching benefits to the everyday consumer, and its revenue stream from the broad model has paid off in droves of cash.
Above: A look at the many possible outcomes of Elon Musk's next moves surrounding Twitter (Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios)
In defining a “super app,” GSR Ventures partner Yuechen Zhao said, “A super app is an app where you can accomplish a lot of different tasks, even ones that you might not necessarily think are super related to each other. It’s all related to everyday consumer behavior and everyday consumer life.”
However, super apps could have their potential downsides, as noted by the Chinese Center for Strategic and Intelligence Studies Trustee Chair Scott Kennedy. For one, the huge commercial operations could likely run dangerously close to having anti-trust and anti-competition barriers in the U.S., according to Kennedy.
“One of the criticisms of WeChat is its monopolistic tendencies,” says Kennedy. “We already have those kinds of concerns about Facebook, Apple and others. I think a super app would run into anti-trust and anti-competition obstacles in the United States.”
Above: Before the latest pivot, Musk had told Twitter employees he wants a billion daily users. (Video: CNBC)
What’s to come of Twitter remains to be seen, but Musk’s initial hopes were to make the company much larger and bring the platform closer to models like WeChat. Whether or not it happens remains to be seen. Such a move could risk monopoly status as well, but either way, Musk had forecasted $30 billion in Twitter revenue by 2028 — and his track record with past companies speaks for itself. That said, what's next remains a mystery