Elon Musk takes the first step towards his “universal app”

At the beginning of October, after having finally resolved to go through with the procedure for acquiring Twitter, Elon Musk had announced his vague plan to transform the social network into ” universal app”. The analysts then agreed to designate behind this name the model of the Chinese WeChat. A social network capable of managing payments, which integrates a whole range of services (entertainment, food delivery, VTC, etc.), so as to become a central place for its users’ expenses.

Since the very chaotic beginnings of Elon Musk as boss of Twitter, this ambition had not resurfaced. But on Wednesday the New York Times got his hands on a very interesting document: an application for registration of Twitter with FinCEN, the American agency responsible for monitoring financial movements. Concretely, the social network has started the procedures to obtain the legal permission to manage the payments. Asked about the subject in a Twitter Space [une conférence audio sur le réseau social, ndlr] more than an hour addressed to advertisers, Elon Musk gave details of his plans.

Twitter Blue, first stone

In the medium term, Elon Musk mentioned a future in which Twitter would allow the sending of money between users (like Paypal or Lydia), but also the transfer from an authenticated bank account. For the businessman, the new Twitter Blue subscription service, which gives access for 8 dollars to a certification badge and better highlighting of published content (among other advantages) is the first stone of this future. ecosystem.

The company is also reportedly working on a payment system for videos. This move would launch Twitter into a market where popular porn industry platforms like Onlyfans are primarily found. Consumer video platforms like Twitch or YouTube instead offer monthly subscription systems that do not close access to content. Subscription translates support and only gives access to cosmetic benefits and possibly replays. Twitter has also already copied this feature under the name of “Super Follow”, has integrated a donation system, and the possibility of putting certain content under paywall (such as newsletters).

The new system could allow video creators to generate revenue – like on Instagram, YouTube or TikTok. Musk plans to put in place incentives for them to keep that money on the platform. But before carrying out this project, Twitter must make technical adjustments to support longer videos than at present.

Twitter with PayPal sauce?

In the long term, Elon Musk hopes to go so far as to offer banking offers that are sufficiently attractive to encourage users to store the bulk of their savings on the platform. It would become a competitor of payment services such as PayPal, Venmo or Lydia, which seek to retain their customers’ cash in their systems, as noted Techcrunch. Yet very fond of cryptocurrencies, the billionaire did not mention this type of payment during his Twitter Space, even if it would indeed be in preparation according to the always very well informed The Information.

The businessman does not jump into the unknown: in 1999 he participated in the launch of X.com, which will become PayPal. This is why this turn of Twitter towards payment was mentioned by analysts as soon as the takeover offer was signed. It remains to be seen now if this is indeed a real long-term strategy, or a simple stunt.

As a reminder, Musk indebted Twitter to the tune of $13 billion to complete the takeover, and he now has to pay $1 billion in interest a year. All this, while the economic model of the social network, which relies 90% on advertising, has never generated significant profits in 13 years of existence.

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What about advertisers?

Until the long-term payment strategy works, Twitter must survive. However, Elon Musk is confronted with the first withdrawals of advertisers, worried about the new management of the network, or who underline (like General Motors) the conflicts of interest of the new leader, also owner of Tesla. More generally, the online advertising market is going through a troubled period. Advertisers concentrate their investments and the social network is only seen as a secondary platform compared to display on Google Search, Meta (Facebook) or Amazon (for e-merchants).

The frenzy of creation and destruction displayed by the new leader does not help to restore confidence. In recent years, Twitter has been testing its many new features on a small number of users, in order to adjust them before deciding whether to deploy them network-wide or not. The launch of the edit tweets feature, the much-discussed “ edit button is a perfect example of this cautious method. It allowed both to see the functionalities in real conditions, while avoiding dangerous diversions in the event of a bug, since the testers remained in limited number.

For his part, Elon Musk has decided not to do half measures and to denigrate any precaution. Last weekend, its teams deployed and then retracted the new Twitter Blue, before putting it back into production since last night. Similarly, they changed the display of certifications from the old system -“legacy” in Musk’s jargon-, before returning to the modification, then deploying a new way to distinguish between heritage certifications and those from the new one. Twitter Blue subscription.

Please note that Twitter is going to do a lot of stupid things in the coming months. We’re going to keep what works and change what doesn’t.”has warned Elon Musk in response to user confusion.

The billionaire sits by all the traditional rules of the feature deployment process, and he exposes himself to the risks that come with it. Unsurprisingly, Twitter Blue abuses are already flourishing: Pranksters certify branded accounts, while malicious actors use them to post scams. Elon Musk has already said that he would ban any attempt at identity misuse, but that obviously doesn’t stop anyone from trying it. The billionaire will have to prove that he can put his new certification system under control at the risk of facing an exodus of advertisers and their budgets.