The history behind the Elon Musk ‘X’ logo that might replace Twitter

Peter Thiel, left, and Elon Musk, right, hold Visa credit cards with the X.com logo October 20, 2000.
Paul Skuma/AP

  • Elon Musk announced on Saturday that he plans to rebrand Twitter and change the bird logo to an “X”.
  • The branding is part of Musk’s long-awaited vision to create an “app for everything.”
  • Musk previously wanted X to be the name of a banking website now known as PayPal.

Elon Musk announced plans Saturday to ditch the Twitter Bird logo for an “X” — a nod to the CEO’s vision of creating an all-encompassing “everything app” that might include shopping and banking services, among other features.

Domain X.com is now redirecting users to Twitter. Musk said the “temporary” X logo will go live on Sunday. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Twitter’s potential new logo recalls Musk’s days as a 28-year-old former tech startup in Silicon Valley with aspirations to start an online banking company in 1999.

By that point, Musk had launched and sold Zip2 — a company that provided city travel guide software to newspapers — for about $341 million. Musk earned $22 million from the deal.

With this cash, he focused his next venture on banking. The idea was to create an online tool for managing mutual funds, According to a 1999 Marketwatch article.

Elon Musk in Palo Alto, California, on August 7, 2000.
Pauline Lubbins/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

What can this online service be called? According to Julie Anderson Ankenbrandt, a former PayPal executive, the name was born in a classic Silicon Valley setting: a coffee shop.

“There was an early night where Elon, the other co-founders of the company… I sat around a table in the back room of a long-old bar called Blue Chalk (cafe) in Palo Alto, trying (to determine) what the name of the company should be,” Ankenbrandt wrote in a 2016 Quora post. “At that point, in early 1999, the intent was still to build a revolutionary full-service financial platform (credit card, mutual fund, standard bank statements all in one place – just imagine! :)) and the question was whether you wanted to be a q, x, or z dot com.”

According to Ankenbrandt, the waitress in the café has the final say.

“Elon asked her what she thought, and she said she liked x.com,” Ankenbrandt wrote. Elon pounded the table and said, That’s it then!

The former PayPal CEO noted that the founders felt the brand would be problematic because of the “pornographic associations of the letter X.” Although, for the time being, it could be argued that Musk might welcome the rough association.

“But it never came to that in the end given the trajectory of the company,” she wrote.

Ankenbrandt could not be reached for comment.

X.com was launched in late 1999. In 2000, the company merged with competitor Confinity, co-founded by Peter Thiel and Max Levchin.

The name never stuck: Disputes within the company, including over the x.com name, would soon be followed by Musk’s dismissal in late 2000. Thiel was appointed as the new CEO.

While issues with the name didn’t lead to Musk’s firing — one of the internal arguments was over where to move the company’s servers — most employees didn’t like the name as much as Musk did.

According to Ashley Vance’s biography “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Search for a Fantastic Future” Almost everyone in the company preferred the PayPal name. In 2001, x.com was renamed accordingly.

Musk soon moved on to other projects, including founding SpaceX and investing in Tesla. But more than a decade later, Musk has never let go of that name.

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment sent over the weekend.

In 2017, Musk bought the domain X.com from PayPal for an undisclosed sum.

“No plans at the moment, but it has great sentimental value to me,” Musk tweeted at the time.

Eight years later, after he bought Twitter for $44 billion, Musk officially merged his newly purchased social media company into a Nevada-founded entity called X Corp.

“Buying Twitter is an acceleration of Create X, the App of Everything,” Musk said in October 2022.

Twitter CEO He said in a live forum He envisions a service that “does it all — sort of like Twitter, plus PayPal, plus a whole bunch of stuff, all rolled into one, with a great interface.”

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