If you visit the X URL now, you'll find something very different than if you visited the page a year ago. Why? Because the X URL is now associated with the social media site formerly known as Twitter, thanks to Elon Musk's acquisition of the platform.
You're not alone if you need clarification about the quick retirement of the iconic bird logo and social media giant's former moniker. Suffice it to say that Twitter's rebrand to X has raised plenty of eyebrows. Luckily, we can help you clear up any confusion you may have regarding the X URL — and we're here to offer some key takeaways regarding what web teams should consider when buying a URL.
What is the history of x.com?
Let's start with a brief history of x.com. Interestingly enough, Musk owned the URL before 2023 — this story began in 1999. That year, Musk founded an online payment company called — you guessed it — x.com. It was one of the first online payment companies and merged just a year later with a company named Confinity. If that doesn't sound familiar, it's because Confinity quickly became known as PayPal following the merger, named after Confinity's payment system of the same name. PayPal, as we know, is still around today.
Following the merger, PayPal thrived and experienced tremendous success. (No, Musk isn't connected to PayPal anymore — eBay acquired the platform for a massive $1.5 billion in 2002, but Musk hasn't been involved since 2000 when Peter Thiel replaced him.)
In 2014, the X URL only sold for $6.8 million. Yes, this is just the x.com price — no product or service attached. Talk about a valuable URL! And finally, in 2017, Musk regained control of the X URL he initially used to start the payment platform. Except this time, he used the X URL to direct to a different website: That of Tesla, another company of his.
Check out Musk's tweet (can we still call it a Tweet?) praising PayPal for allowing him to purchase the domain.
As we know, it has since been repurposed following the purchase of Twitter by Musk. And there you have it — the surprising history of x.com.
Take a look at x.com's past performance on Google Trends. As you can see, interest in the term 'x.com' has been relatively low in the past five years in the United States. However, you can see a massive spike in July 2023, specifically between July 23 and 29. What happened during that period? On July 23, Musk made it so that x.com would redirect users to Twitter. On the 24th, he officially replaced the famous Twitter bird logo with a single letter: X. The impact is obviously demonstrated by Google Trends.
Wondering why X.com still redirects to Twitter.com? We get it — it's a bit confusing. The reason why x.com still redirects to twitter.com is fairly straightforward: When Musk acquired Twitter, the redirect was added to ensure that anyone who arrives on the X URL gets where they need to go, which, in this case, is Twitter.
It's also impossible to tell if Musk will keep it this way or if, eventually, the only way you'll be able to access the social media platform is by inputting the X URL into your address bar. We wouldn't be surprised if, eventually, as X gains more brand recognition, you can only access the platform by entering 'X' into your address bar.
What about SEO? Here's How This Impacts the X's (Formerly Twitter's) SEO
So, what do all of these rapid changes mean for the platform's search engine optimization (SEO) efforts? In short: A lot. As you can imagine, the shift from Twitter to the X URL distinctly impacts the SEO of the site. Here's how.
For starters, consider backlinks. Backlinks are crucial as they tell search engines that a site is trustworthy, reputable, and a reliable authority figure. When Musk changed the URL, the backlinks that were directed to Twitter's old URL became useless. Now, those backlinks will need to be redirected to the X URL.
That's not the only impact on SEO, however. Another potential issue is with the crawling and indexing of the website. The URL suddenly changed to a URL with a highly unusual structure. This could confuse search engines, which may lead to index and crawling issues. Therefore, ranking on the SERPs could be more difficult for the platform's pages than it was before.
Using the X URL Story as a Lesson: What Web Teams Should Consider When Buying a URL
There are a lot of lessons that web teams should consider when buying a URL. Let's dive into them now.
Why are you changing the URL?
The first question you may want to ask is: Why is your web team changing the URL? In this case, Musk may have changed the URL for solely sentimental reasons. Or he wanted to signal a new iteration of the famous social media platform, and the X URL change was simply part of the rebrand. Or perhaps Musk changed it to denote a level of importance surrounding the site, as single-letter URLs are upcoming.
Regardless, if you're planning on making a change, consider why you're doing so and align with key stakeholders.
Consider the SEO impact.
If your business has spent a lot of time gathering backlinks, you could be negating your efforts by changing your URL. For a massive social media company like Twitter, this might not be as big of a deal as it is for a small business that has to source mentions and backlinks rigorously.
Think about what you're signaling to users.
There's a lot of confusion ongoing for users of the platform, especially considering how the X URL still redirects to Twitter. If you rebrand with a URL, you should clearly express what the platform will be called moving forward and make it uniform. Alternatively, you can phase out the old URL, similar to how Musk likely is, but it would be wise to add a note somewhere on the site that after a specific date, visitors will only be able to access the site by visiting the new URL.