Say you’re the richest person in the world, and have decided to build a “super app” — a kind of digital Swiss army knife that incorporates everything from messaging to commerce. To get started, you buy a popular social network — Twitter — to serve as a foundation. You file paperwork to start processing those payments. You lay out a vision for Twitter as a hybrid communications tool, and a financial institution, and a stock exchange.
You do all this without first checking to see whether the company you just bought for $44 billion has teams working on this already. In fact, it does: It’s called the developer platform team. Its goal is to enable developers to build apps of their own inside Twitter: games, fundraising tools, a music player, and whatever else the company’s API might allow.
Eventually, the team was planning to let developers build custom timelines and let people browse them on Twitter. This seems to align with your dream of making Twitter a super app. What do you do next?
If you’re Elon Musk, you fire the whole team, shut down almost all free access to the Twitter API, and then continue hinting that you’re building a super app anyway. Twitter itself was recently subsumed into a new entity called X Corp.
Beyond that, though, is there much evidence that Musk’s dream of a super app is still alive?
News last week that Twitter had been merged into X, coupled with the announcement that the company will partner with social trading platform eToro to let Twitter users trade within the app, led to a wave of stories speculating that a super app could soon be forthcoming.
Amir Shevat, who previously led Twitter’s developer platform, has his doubts. Most super apps open themselves eagerly to developers because it isn’t practical for companies to build every possible extension of their core app by themselves. Lots of apps that we don’t think of as “super apps” — Slack, Chrome, or more recently, ChatGPT — are successful in large part because they integrate so easily with other tools.
“I don’t think [Musk] is being sincere with the everything app. It’s more of an ‘everything Elon wants’ app,” says Shevat.
Let’s take a step back.