Musk has expressed a desire to convert X, the microblogging platform formerly referred to as Twitter, into a “everything app.”
Musk’s designs appear to be influenced by the Chinese messaging app WeChat.
WeChat, which integrates social media, electronic payment methods, internet browsing, and other features into a singular app, has become an integral part of daily life in China since its 2011 debut.
WeChat’s success is partially attributable to the support of the Chinese government, a formidable entity that is challenging to compete with in a US or Western context.
Beijing has restricted foreign platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, while endorsing domestic applications such as WeChat that are conducive to social control and government censorship.
The majority of Chinese government departments and local governments use WeChat to disseminate information, including a recent appeal for citizens to join anti-espionage efforts and report suspicious activity.
WeChat Became a Tremendous Success
WeChat had been effective in China for a number of reasons, but the launch timing was crucial.
Because of inadequate infrastructure and a sizable rural population, China had only 485 million internet consumers in 2011 out of a total population of 1.3 billion.
Additionally, the country had a low credit card penetration, with most people relying on currency. At the time, the greatest denomination was 100 renminbi, or approximately $13.
China’s internet ecosystem in 2011 was much smaller and more fragmented than that of the United States in 2023.
Additionally, the market is much more competitive. After the COVID-19 contagion, Musk’s super app will have to compete with TikTok, which is establishing an e-commerce business in the United States, and the pervasiveness of Google Pay and Apple Pay.
Musk, according to Kendra Schaeffer, Head of Tech Policy Research at Trivium China, will need to integrate a payment infrastructure into his super app – the “secret sauce for success” – if he wants his app to be successful. This would liberate users from engaging on third-party links, but US developers have yet to implement it.