Super App

Birth of a super app?

In July 2023, Elon Musk rebranded Twitter to X – another step in his master plan to emulate Chinese super app WeChat.

Mr Musk has long said that he wants to transform his social media firm, which he bought last year for $44 billion, into a much larger platform.

He has previously praised WeChat – a so-called ‘everything app‘ that combines chat, dating, payments and social media – and has said creating something “even close to that with Twitter… would be an immense success”.

In a post on X this week, Mr Musk said that over the coming months, ‘we will add comprehensive communications and the ability to conduct your entire financial world’.

He will hope that growing X will lead to a revenue recovery – the company has lost almost half its advertising revenue since Mr Musk bought it, and it is struggling under a heavy debt load.

Established businesses

He has successfully disrupted several industries with his ventures such as Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company. He may be able to bring some fresh ideas and solutions to the social media space with X. It will be interesting to see if he adopts an existing digital payment system or develops his own. XRP, for instance – could be a good fit.

What is WeChat?

WeChat is a ‘super-app’ that combines messaging, social media, payments, e-commerce, entertainment, news, and more. It is owned by Tencent, one of China’s largest tech companies, and has over 1.2 billion monthly active users, mostly in mainland China.

Super App
Everything App

WeChat users can do almost anything within the app, from ordering food to booking tickets to paying bills, without leaving the app. WeChat also hosts millions of mini-apps that are created by third-party developers and businesses to offer various services and functions to users. It is like WhatsApp, Facebook, Apple Pay, Uber, Amazon, Tinder and a whole lot more rolled into one. Launched by technology giant Tencent in 2011. WeChat is now used by almost all of China’s 1.4 billion pupulation (1.2 billion users seems to be the latest concensus).

Will it work in the West?

WeChat’s huge success in China is arguably down to two major factors. For one, most people in China access WeChat on smartphones, rather than desktop computers, due to the relatively late development of the internet in the country. And two, China’s lack of competition regulation – which contrasts with most Western countries – allows an app like WeChat to potentially effectively block rival platforms.

Could Mr Musk make a similar app work outside China? We may be finding out soon – and experts believe it may all depend on digital payments and his ‘system’ to implement this everyday task.

A major difference between China and the West is the widespread adoption of digital payment technology.

While shops in China are legally obliged to accept cash, in practice, digital payments are far more common.

This difference, may be an obstacle to Mr Musk’s ambitions. It will take the Western world longer to implement a truly cashless or credit card free society.

Why does Musk want to emulate WeChat?

Elon Musk has been an admirer of WeChat for a long time. He once said that WeChat is ‘so usable and helpful to daily life‘ in China, and that he wanted to achieve something similar with Twitter, no X. He also said that buying Twitter was an ‘accelerant’ to creating X, the everything app.

X The company likely to bring you the ‘Super’ App or the ‘Everything’ App

Mr Musk has hinted that he plans to add more features and functionalities to Twitter, such as video, communications, and financial services. He also said that the Twitter name did not make sense in the new context, so he decided to rename it as X, a brand that he has used before for his online banking business that later became PayPal.

Dystopia or Utopia – A dark side or a force for good?

Is the Super App a natural progression and development for good or yet another infringement on our freedom, liberty and privacy. Is it even necessary?

In China, we have witnessed a level of state control interference over the internet that has reportedly made it extremely dangerous for people to speak out against the government on WeChat.

It is not unusual for dissenting voices to have their accounts suspended for days or weeks for something they have said in Chats or on Moments.

Even people sharing seemingly uncontroversial information have found themselves on the wrong side of government censors and had their accounts and chat groups shut down.

Digital life footprint

Everything Everywhere – a super ‘system’ monitoring what you do, what you buy, where you go, when, how, who you talk to, what you say – all your movements, comments, discussions and activity will be known by someone else, somewhere, even your private discussions, holiday activity and medical details will be visible in the ‘system’.

Some may say this has happened already, but this ‘super-app’ will be a massive step closer to ‘life without privacy’.

Someone, somewhere is monitoring you.

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