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The leader of tech’s favorite texting app suspects there will never be a WeChat in the U.S.Elon Musk is attempting to turn Twitter, renamed X, into just such an app.Despite such ongoing efforts by major tech figures, there is not “much hope” for success.
The odds of Elon Musk turning Twitter into the next “super app” are slim, according to the president of Signal.
Meredith Whittaker, a former Google executive and co-founder of research group AI Now who last year became Signal’s first president, cast doubt on the likelihood of Twitter becoming the next WeChat, the most popular messaging app in China.
Signal is a fully encrypted app for calls and texts that is widely used in the tech industry, including by Musk. Although the Tesla billionaire, who acquired Twitter last year, recently renamed the platform X as part of his insistence on it becoming an “everything app,” Whittaker thinks the time for any such platform is passed.
“People have been talking about it for years, and we still don’t have a super app,” she said in an interview with Swiss magazine Schweizer Monat. Although there are such apps that are hugely popular, they are exclusively in Asia, like WeChat in China, Line in Japan and Kakao in Korea, Whittaker noted. All of those apps came up in a time “when there wasn’t a lot of competition in the market, and they are integrated into government service,” she said.
“I don’t think there’s much hope for a super app that suddenly appears, displaces the competition, and then dominates multiple markets in the U.S.,” Whittaker added.
Musk, who is new to running a social media company and recently brought in advertising executive Linda Yaccarino to try and improve its struggling advertising business, appears determined to try. The billionaire spoke of wanting to create a WeChat-like app for the U.S. even before he owned Twitter and in recent months has been testing features like payments, live video and even phone calls. Although he has admitted things are not going well.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has also been attempting for a couple of years to build WhatsApp into something akin to a super app. Mark Zuckerberg acquired the simple messaging app a decade ago for $22 billion, a staggering price to pay for something that still has not turned a direct profit. Now, the app is working to better integrate brands and businesses to work with customers, while experimenting with payments and shopping.
Uber, too, is morphing itself into a broader offering more than booking rides. With a growing array of travel services, like hotel and flight booking, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, said he wants Uber to be “the operating system for your everyday life.”
WeChat, one of the most popular apps in the world with more than 1 billion monthly active users, still offers much more than any single platform in the West. The app makes most of its money from a huge array of games while it operates as a large social media platform and an e-commerce platform for brands and companies of all sizes.
It also facilitates text, voice to text, voice and live video communication, even with groups of people; maps and GPS services; online and in-person payments and even has an enterprise version of the app for businesses that can be used typical HR functions like payroll.