Similar to the dystopian X sign Elon Musk used as a replacement for its original logo at Twitter’s headquarters, casting a shadow over San Francisco (before it was removed due to dozens of local complaints), the social network’s rebrand continues to loom over more and more of the platform.
This week, longtime Twitter user and software developer Jeremy Vaught received a notice from X's generic support email address (still support@Twitter.com at the time) alerting him that X had taken over the music handle he’s been using for the past 16 years.
The message said that the handle would now be "affiliated with X Corp," and announced that Vaught's data and followers had already been transferred to an alternate handle, "@musicfan" -- although he was given the option of picking a different alternate if he preferred. (For now, Vaught, who had built up more than 450,000 followers with the @music handle -- which he never sought to monetize -- has said he's opted to stick with @musicfan.)
No offer of payment, no back and forth, and no personal message from a specific X employee, never mind Musk.
“Just now Twitter/X ripped it away,” Vaught posted about the @music handle, after receiving the email. “Super pissed.”
@Music (now with an uppercase M) has been merged with @TwitterMusic, which has been shut down.
X had already taken over handles related directly to the brand's new name, including @x, as well as ones that, like @music, relate to potential areas of business expansion, such as @Sports, @TV and @Movies, according to Slate.
Like most other platforms, X has the rights to all posts and handles, barring copyright issues -- and its user terms state this.
But such high-handed behavior could make creators very nervous, further erode loyalty and drive influential creators and users to other platforms.
Given recent moves positioned as making X a haven for creators, such as sharing ad revenue with them (though some initial payments have been delayed), the social network is probably trying to become a destination for musicians and artists.
It’s not like the app hasn’t already tried to compete with the likes of iTunes and Spotify. About 10 years ago, Twitter launched and promptly shuttered its own in-app music recommendation service. Now, the data associated with this prior experiment has been relocated to the handle stolen from Vaught, which has 11.5 million followers.
But no matter how many related handles X takes from now-jaded users, how will it possibly compete with TikTok?
As I’ve mentioned before, TikTok, with its own plans to become an everything app, is worlds ahead of X in the music space, having become a major player in music discovery with ties to major record labels like Warner.
The ByteDance-owned app not only has hundreds of millions more users than X (and a far better reputation, even with major privacy security worries linked to China’s Communist Party), but it continues to pursue connections and foster engagement in the music industry, with plans to fortify its own streaming service, TikTok Music, and global live events like the cash-prize music competition the company announced on Tuesday.
I understand that X wants to win back creators and expand its focus. But it’s now taking steps similar to the way Musk treated content moderation, staffing, and brand safety after his takeover last year. I don’t think that snatching handles from its most dedicated and passionate users is a sustainable method of expansion.