The Everything Idiot


The Everything Idiot

Elon Musk X's Out Twitter

OVER THE WEEKEND, Elon Musk, who spent $44 billion to buy a famous social-media site with a well-known brand, announced that he was changing the site's name and logo from "Twitter," with a blue bird theme, to "X," with a theme of the letter X.

Since Musk had already driven away many of the most engaged users and scared off the site's advertisers, the Twitter brand was the most visible remaining asset he had acquired for his $44 billion. Yesterday I reloaded the page and the blue bird turned into a black X. The logo on the browser tab remained a bird for a while longer, though. Musk is not a detail-oriented person, at least not in the sense of demanding that all the details of something be right. But in the sense of demanding that one single detail be the way he wants it, at the expense of everything else, yes.

In this case, particularly, it turns out that Musk has been trying to find something to name "X" ever since he was forced out of his nascent financial-services company by people who preferred the name "PayPal." Also apparently Microsoft already owns a suite of trademarks on "X" going all the way back to 2003, originally for, among other things, "interactive multiplayer game services for games played over computer networks and global communications networks," "computer games and video games downloadable over computer global communications networks," and "information on the video game and computer game industries via the Internet." And Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, has registered an X trademark of its own.

A trademark only covers the goods and services the trademark holder specifies. People have certainly shared lots of information about the video game and computer game industries over Twitter, but that wasn't Twitter's mission, exactly. What is the mission of X? Linda Yaccarino, the CEO Musk brought in to resuscitate ad sales but who—details!—was blocked from making ad deals by a noncompete agreement with her previous employer, NBCUniversal, tweeted her account of Musk's plans:

X is the future state of unlimited interactivity—centered in audio, video, messaging, payments/banking—creating a global marketplace for ideas, goods, services, and opportunities. Powered by AI, X will connect us all in ways we’re just beginning to imagine.

Audio, messaging, banking, opportunities...those sorts of things. "There’s absolutely no limit to this transformation," Yaccarino added. "X will be the platform that can deliver, well….everything."

Speaking of delivering things, last week Musk's Tesla Inc. tweeted out a photograph of what it claimed was its first real factory-built Cybertruck. It was little more than three and a half years after Musk unveiled the Cybertruck as a concept vehicle, announced it had unbreakable windows, and then watched a window get broken, and a year and a half past the original production date. Notably, in the factory photo, a crowd of workers hid most of the newly built truck from view.

Now he's going to offer AI-powered banking to everyone. Here are a few things you generally do not want your bank to do with your account: lock you out of it without warning. Lock you into it when you want to get out. Steer it the wrong way against your will. Start charging you new fees to do things with it. Watch it burst into flames.

At least one of Musk's other signal accomplishments—making his network welcoming and available to Nazis—does have some profitable precedent in the banking industry. But that was a long time ago, and the Swiss paired their capacity for evil with legendary technical competence. By the time the rebranding to X, with its wish list of future functions, came around, Twitter's most basic features were barely operable.

Meanwhile, on Thursday of last week, the Federal Reserve launched FedNow, an instant-payment service expanding on its interbank system, which could eventually undercut the credit-card industry and take over point-of-sale transactions. Elon Musk, still clammy-handedly trying to find ways to squeeze $8 subscriptions out of his dwindling customer base, is not going to win a consumer price war with the Fed.

Who is Musk kidding? Is he even kidding himself? X barely has a chance to recover its status as a one-thing app, let alone become the everything app. The main result of Musk's $44 billion investment is that now everyone knows he is a nincompoop and nobody trusts him. Even Musk's most sycophantic followers have lost faith in his ability to run Twitter as a message board. His last big idea before rebranding Twitter as X was paying the worst people on the site to be his friends.

The rebranding from Twitter to X wasn't grasping for the future, it was fumbling for the past. Musk bought the most powerful attention-focusing machine in the world and, through sheer incompetence and awfulness of personality, made it boring. Killing the Twitter brand was the last trick he had left to get anyone to pay attention again.

Elsewhere in the wisdom of our tech overlords:

Jack Dorsey's salted lemon drink.

Wait, Why Is Elon Musk the Richest Person in the World?


New York City, July 24, 2023

★★★★★ The gray morning sky wore off right on schedule as midday arrived, and the humidity dipped below 50 percent. Bands of cloud marched across the zenith. One of the bands broke up in bandlets perpendicular to its original line, but the whole thing dissolved before the sky could turn plaid. It was a joy to sit out on the rusting and dusty balcony furniture, beside the dried bird droppings on the rail. The breeze rustled and tossed the leaves intermittently, and a house sparrow gave its businesslike chirp at a not-quite-regular interval. Another sparrow fluttered up to the balcony, hovered there for a  second at the sight of a person, and steered away. There was no logical reason why the computer screen should have been easier to read in the daylight, yet it was. After dinner the clouds had cleared out entirely. A shiny red balloon drifted high against the plain blue. Through the window of the upper-floor apartment, the golden western sun shone through the hairs on the bow of the six-stringed fiddle and cast the moving bow-shadow on the wall opposite. Sheets of violet clouds arrived low down, and then the eleven-year-old's eye was caught, as the five-stringed fiddle played, by a long and vivid cloud above them, seemingly twisted like an eland horn, purple winding around gold. The night air, dense with returning humidity, was uncomfortable for walking in, but the crescent moon was the color of electrum.


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19 FOLKTALES collects a series of timeless tales of canny animals, foolish people, monsters, magic, ambition, adventure, glory, failure, inexorable death, and ripe fruits and vegetables. Written by Tom Scocca and richly illustrated by Jim Cooke, these fables stand at the crossroads of wisdom and absurdity.

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