Explained | What is an 'everything app' and why does Elon Musk want to make one?

Chinese super app WeChat has more than 1 billion monthly users, according to one estimate, and is a ubiquitous part of daily life in China

October 06, 2022 12:07 pm | Updated 05:51 pm IST

File photo of Tesla CEO Elon Musk

File photo of Tesla CEO Elon Musk | Photo Credit: AP

Why is Elon Musk suddenly thinking about creating an "everything app," and what does that even mean?

The question arose on Tuesday after the billionaire chief executive of Tesla Inc. reversed course on his earlier decision not to buy Twitter Inc. Musk is now willing to proceed with his original plan to buy the social media company for $44 billion and late on Tuesday, he tweeted: "Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app."

The concept of an everything app, often referred to as a "super app," is massively popular in Asia and tech companies across the world have tried to replicate it.

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What is a super app?

A super app, or what Musk refers to as an "everything app," has been described as the Swiss army knife of mobile apps, offering a suite of services for users such as messaging, social networking, peer-to-peer payments and e-commerce shopping.

These mega apps are widely used in Asia because mobile is the main form of access to the internet for many people in the region, wrote Scott Galloway, a New York University professor of marketing and co-host of tech podcast "Pivot," last year.

What are some examples of super apps?

Chinese super app WeChat has more than 1 billion monthly users, according to one estimate, and is a ubiquitous part of daily life in China. Users can hail a car or taxi, send money to friends and family or make payments at stores. In 2018, some Chinese cities began testing WeChat for an electronic identification system that would be tied to users' accounts, according to the South China Morning Post.

Grab, a leading super app across Southeast Asia, offers food delivery, ride-hailing, on-demand package delivery and financial services and investing.

Why does Musk want to make a super app?

During a question-and-answer session with Twitter employees in June, Musk noted there is no equivalent to a super app like WeChat outside of Asia.

"You basically live on WeChat in China," he said, adding he saw an opportunity to create such an app.

Adding more tools and services to Twitter could also help Musk reach his lofty growth goals for the company. During the Q&A with employees, Musk said he wanted Twitter to grow from its 237 million users to "at least a billion."

Musk and members of his inner circle texted multiple times about the idea of adding digital payments to Twitter, according to messages released in the discovery phase of litigation between Musk and the social media company.

Have other U.S tech companies tried this?

Yes, Snapchat parent Snap Inc. previously introduced peer-to-peer payments called Snapcash, but ended the feature in 2018. It also made a push into mobile gaming and recently ended that venture as part of cost-cutting plans.

Meta Platform Inc.'s Facebook and Instagram have also tried to expand beyond social networking and messaging into e-commerce.

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