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Twitter made its first strategic acquisition of the Elon era. Too little, too late?


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Deepfate

Twitter made its first strategic acquisition of the Elon era. But has his quest to make Twitter an “everything app” been blocked by a much flashier, much newer offering?

Just some of the ChatGPT plug ins that will soon be available (OpenAI)

TWITTER BOUGHT A JOB RECRUITMENT SITE

It’s called Laskie and it has a good pedigree: the founder and CEO sold a previous startup to the online job board Indeed.com.

However. Observers think Twitter’s acquisition isn’t about recruiting or jobs at all. They think it’s about everything.

Literally.

YOU KNOW WECHAT, RIGHT?

WeChat is an "everything app" aka a "super app" in China. It’s called that because WeChat combines a ton of different services inside a single user interface: you can use WeChat to find and read news, to hail rides, to book doctor’s appointments, or even pay your taxes. You can text on it, or video chat, you can store your official government ID card, and share your location with friends, and way, way more.

Elon’s been kind of loud about his aim to build the WeChat of the West.

But is that goal even possible?

LET’S UNPACK

As others have noted, when people ask “who will the first WeChat of the West be?” what they’re really asking is, “what existing chat platform can make the move from P2P texting to B2C commerce?”

But zoom out: for that to happen, the existing chat platform in question has got to be super appealing to the “B,” as well as the “C.” That is, the service providers and retailers that consumers want to text and pay, need to want to be on the app themselves.

ON CHAT

At first glance, companies should want to. They know that a (good) chat option is both awesome for customer service, and much cheaper than setting up a call center. Win/win, right?

Wrong. Customer service chat adoption has been inconsistent at best, held back by a fractured messaging tech ecosystem.

Say I want to chat with British Airways about an upcoming reservation. What exactly should I do? Tweet my booking reference at them? Twitter DM? Instagram DM? Text a number I find online? Or is the correct answer to fire up the BA app? But what if I don’t have the app, or if I’ve forgotten my BA password? Or my App Store password?

See the friction?

Meta has attempted to solve all this over the years by offering businesses the chance to “meet customers where they are”, but how’s that working out? Have you ever Facebook Messenger’d or WhatsApp’d a business? (Actually, a lot of people have. While “WhatsApp Business” not super popular in the West, WhatsApp Business has hundreds of millions of users in India, and tens of millions in Indonesia.)

“THE DEAL” HAS ENTERED THE CHAT

Musk recently hired Linda Yaccarino, an experienced and well respected advertising sales professional, to be Twitter’s new CEO. She has her work cut out for her, mostly because advertisers want to advertise against quality content, not mean Tweets from anonymous trolls. (In an ironic twist, that is the very argument she herself spent years making as NBCUniversal’s head of ad sales).

Also, don’t forget that Elon’s promised to remain super involved in Twitter at the highest level (“My role will transition to being exec chair & CTO, overseeing product, software & sysops”), and he really, really wants to turn Twitter into what he’s calling “X,” the everything app.

But there’s a 100 trillion parameter giant standing in X’s way. And it’s growing.

CHATGPT CHECKMATE 

Plugins are ChatGPT’s “app store moment.” That’s an expression that refers to the 2008 opening of the Apple App Store, which supercharged the iPhone’s utility —and popularity.

It’s difficult to overstate just how paradigm shifting the App Store was. By breaking down the friction around software installation, and making it super easy for users to pay for their app purchases, the Apple’s App Store simultaneously encouraged developers to produce cool new apps, and end users (you and me) to upgrade the functionality and fun factor of our phones. It launched in 2008 with just 500 apps. Today there are millions.

WELCOME TO OUR PLUGINS ERA

Opening the App Store marked Apple’s transition to a platform strategy, which is difficult to execute, but hugely profitable.

The advent of Plugins marks OpenAI’s platform strategy era, but I think it also marks something much more meaningful: ChatGPT + plugins is closer to becoming the West’s everything app than anything else we’ve seen.

ChatGPT is on its way to ubiquity. It was the fastest app ever to reach 100m users, a milestone it marked back in January. Don’t be surprised if it hits half a billion before the end of the year, a figure that took Facebook six years to reach.

RIP GOOGLE FLIGHTS

I love Google Flights. But adding airline, hotel chain, and credit card plugins to your ChatGPT could let you could book your next holiday by literally typing this: “book best J fare to NCE between 13th and 27th June, direct, on amex. email top 3 room options to match.”

I find Uber pretty easy and efficient. But the Uber ChatGPT plugin would send a car to your location as soon as you type the words “Car home” into ChatGPT

There are plenty of straightforward ways to send people money online. But adding a hypothetical Venmo plugin to your mobile ChatGPT would let you send money to a contact by typing the word “venmo,” their name, an amount, and then using Face ID. Done.

That’s all pretty friction free. And all within the same user interface.

ChatGPT’s blinking cursor is about to get a whole lot more powerful.

More:

Twitter makes its first acquisition with a recruiting startup »»

Musk's "super app" vision »»

Will the WeChat Model work in the West? »»

Elon Musk’s X app for ‘everything’ might be a non-starter in the US »»

Linda Yaccarino sold against social media. Now she's going to run Twitter »»

What are ChatGPT plugins? The next phase of conversational AI is here »»

Platform strategy, explained »»

Written by Jon Kallus. Any feedback? Simply reply. Like this? Share it!👇

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