X has taken another step towards Elon Musk’s “everything app” vision, with X Corp gaining money transmitter approval in Utah, making it the latest U.S. state to grant the company a money transmitter license.
X has been collecting money transmitter approvals over the last few months, with a view to launching the first stage of peer-to-peer payments in the app.
A money transmitter license grants the business approval to facilitate funds transfers between senders and recipients, with the next step beyond that being payment processor licensing, which is required if X wants to facilitate direct shopping in-stream.
But money transmitter approval will facilitate the first step, in building a peer-to-peer payment network, though X still has a long way to go before such functionality is fully realized, beginning with full approvals from each U.S. state.
Which could take time, a point that Elon has also conceded.
And that’s before you consider international approvals for payments, which, as Meta has found, can be incredibly complicated, and downright impossible in some regions.
But X has to start somewhere, and with the company also recently outlining its plan to enable full payments and banking services within the X platform by the end of 2024, it needs to get moving if it wants to meet its ambitious goals.
Which, as noted, aligns with Musk’s broader x.com vision, which Elon remains optimistic will happen sometime soon.
Though again, that is tinged with Elon's customary optimism, which at times borders on blatant fantasy.
In October last year, at a company all-hands meeting, Musk told X staff that he expects X Corp to be granted money transmitter approval from all U.S. states within “the next few months”, while also noting that: “it would blow my mind if we don’t have [payments] rolled out by the end of next year”.
It's an ambitious aim, but again, as a first step, it is possible that X will soon be able to launch the first elements of peer-to-peer payments, which could open up a range of new opportunities in the app.
Musk’s X vision, which he and former business partner David Sacks established when they worked together at PayPal back in 1999, incorporates payments at its core, and stems into all other areas. In their initial plan, Musk and Sacks outlined a plan to create a single platform which would facilitate all financial transactions, from bill payments, to banking, shopping, and more. That app, which even in 1999 Elon insisted would be called x.com, would then, at least in theory, become the backbone of modern society, by taking a new approach to online interactions that essentially eliminating the need for banks, loans under traditional structures, etc.
Musk is still holding firm to that vision, with payments being the first small step towards a wider offering.
If X can make it happen.
Again, Meta has been working for years to make Facebook Pay, now called Meta Pay, into a viable payments offering, with relatively limited success.
Meta also once utilized a former PayPal exec for its push on this front, with David Marcus leading the creation of its Libra internal payment system, which Meta launched in 2019, with the promoted backing of a range of leading financial partners.
But questions over the initiative quickly soured enthusiasm for a separate in-app payments network, which would be powered by a corporate U.S. entity. Indeed, many regions came straight out and said that they would not support the company creating its own currency, and the public backlash saw many of the initial big-name backers pull out, including Visa, Mastercard and PayPal, all key names which had lent credibility to the initial concept.
Meta has tried various other avenues to facilitate payments, which has seen Meta Pay tested and shut down in several markets. It’s still working on the best way forward for the system, but skepticism about the company’s motivations, and alternative payment offerings, continue to restrict its capacity to build its own in-stream payments push in any significant way.
Which is what X will also have to contend with. And while many point to Musk’s experience with PayPal as a key advantage for X’s push, again, Meta also had a PayPal leader in charge of its biggest payments project, and even he wasn't able to make it happen within the modern regulatory landscape.
There’s a wide range of considerations here, and maybe, Elon will prove to have some advantage, in some respects, that will see X payments gain more momentum than Meta could.
But again. I would suggest that X is being overly optimistic, both in its launch targets, and the potential take-up of its payments offering, if/when it does gain full approval.