For more than 10 years, Twitter has been famous for its blue and white bird logo, which has become a symbol of culture and the social network’s unique lexicon. It really became “Twitter”. “Tweet” refers to a post. “Boobs” has become a nickname for Twitter employees.
Late Sunday, Elon Musk started to shake it all off.
The tech billionaire, who bought Twitter last year, renamed the social platform X.com on his website and began replacing the bird logo with a simplified version of the 24th letter of the Latin alphabet. Inside Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, X logos were displayed in the cafeteria, while conference rooms were rebranded to words containing X, including “eXposure,” “eXult,” and “s3Xy,” according to images seen by The New York Times.
Mr. Musk has long said he might change the name, but he has rushed the process in tweet early Sunday morning when he announced that “soon we will be showing goodbye to the Twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds.” He said he hopes to turn Twitter into an “everything app” called X that includes not only social networking, but also banking and shopping.
Early Monday, Mr. Musk, too Share a photo of a giant X displayed on the Twitter office building in San Francisco with the caption: “We’re home tonight.”
The moves — which are still ongoing — are the most significant changes Mr Musk has made to Twitter since he closed the deal to buy the company in October. Behind the scenes, he took several steps to overhaul the company, firing thousands of Twitter employees and changing features of the platform, including badges meant to verify users, as well as rules governing what can and cannot be said on the service.
However, it was impossible to ignore the change of name and logo. And by beginning to take down Twitter’s name, Mr. Musk has thrown away an established brand that has been around since 2006 — when the company was founded — and that has delighted and frustrated celebrities, politicians, athletes, and other users in equal measure.
Many Twitter users, who have spent years tweeting and building their presence on the site, seemed left out of the shift. “Has everyone seen the new (removable) logo?” Actor Mark Hamill chirp on Monday, with the hashtag #ByeByeBirdie. Others saw the move as Mr. Musk’s latest blow to the site, with some stubbornly saying they would still connect to Twitter and would continue to “tweet”.
When brands become verbs, it’s the “holy grail,” said Mike Proulx, vice president and director of research at Forrester, because it means they’ve become part of popular culture.
“The app itself has become a cultural phenomenon in all respects,” he said. “In one sweep, Elon Musk basically wiped 15 years of brand value out of Twitter and is now basically starting from scratch.”
Mr. Musk risked the wrath of Twitter users that he couldn’t afford to upset. His company is facing financial difficulties and increasing competition, with rival Meta launching an app this month for real-time public conversations called Threads. The new app quickly hit 100 million downloads in less than a week, though usage of the app is under scrutiny.
Mike Carr, co-founder of branding firm NameStormers, said Musk’s X logo could be interpreted as having an ominous “Big Brother” vibe. Unlike the Blue Bird, which he described as warm and endearing but perhaps a bit dated and saddled with bad press, the new logo was “pretty tough,” he said.
However, it conjured up phrases like “an X marks the place” and could help Mr. Musk distinguish the platform from its Twitter baggage, Mr. Carr said.
“If they make this mistake and it’s anyone other than Elon Musk, he’s at greater risk because people can start making fun of him,” said Mr. Carr, who has helped come up with names for thousands of customers, including CarMax, the used-car company.
Name X has long been interested in Mr. Musk. In 1999, he helped found it X.com, an online bank. The company changed its name after it merged with another startup to form what would become online payments company PayPal.
In 2017, Mr. Musk said he bought back the X.com domain from PayPal. “No plans at the moment, but it has great sentimental value to me,” he said chirp on time.
Tesla, Mr. Musk’s electric car maker, also has an SUV called the Model X. One of Mr. Musk’s sons, the X Æ A-12 Musk, is often called “X” for short. The holding companies created to close the Twitter acquisition are named X Holdings. Mr. Musk also leads an artificial intelligence company called xAI.
“I love the letter X” to publish Sunday.
Mr. Musk showed disdain for the company’s past culture on Twitter. He has argued the number of bird references in the names and products of the company’s internal team. At some point, he changed the name of his crowdsourced validation feature to Community Feedback from Birdwatching. He also recently tweeted someone a “w” on Twitter’s name at its San Francisco headquarters.
Among those who didn’t seem bothered by the change was Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder and former CEO. He said in a tweet on Monday that while rebranding isn’t “necessary” to achieving Mr. Musk’s vision, there was a case for it.
“The Twitter brand carries a lot of baggage,” Mr. Dorsey said books. “But all that matters is the utility it provides, not the name.”
Martin Graser, San Francisco-based artist part of a team in 2011, who helped design the latest Twitter Bird logo, said it aimed to convey “simplicity, brevity, and clarity.” He said the goal was to have a memorable logo like Apple or Nike.
Mr. Grasser said Mr. Musk can do whatever he wants with the brand, but “my hope is that the bird takes up a space in the culture that’s a happy memory or becomes one of those logos that belong in the culture rather than the company.”