Originally conceived by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey in 2019 as a complementary project aimed at improving the Twitter user experience, Bluesky has transitioned into a standalone project in early 2022and the iOS app was released in February this year followed by an Android version in April.
Visually, Bluesky resembles Twitter. The timeline is called the “skyline” and tweets are “skeets”. It has two main differences that drive its popularity: decentralization and invitation-only access.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for clay pigeons. https://t.co/8MqWzbYUt9
— Sheera Frenkel (@sheeraf) April 28, 2023
Decentralization was a driving force behind Dorsey’s creation of Bluesky. So what does that mean and how is this app different from Twitter?
Dorsey is a strong proponent of decentralized control and cryptocurrency. He believes that centralized platforms like Twitter cannot solve problems such as enforcing policies to address abuse and misinformation, and that proprietary algorithms do not meet users’ needs.
Third, existing social media incentives tend to focus attention on content and conversation that generate controversy and outrage, rather than conversation that informs and promotes health.
— jack (@jack) December 11, 2019
Twitter uses an AI-powered, centrally managed algorithm to determine what content the user is exposed to.
However, on Bluesky, users have control over the algorithm that selects what to expose them to. Like Wired magazine explained:
Crucially, users and servers can label posts or specific users — for example, tag them as “racist” — and anyone can subscribe to that labeled list and block posts based on that.
Blue sky to call to action this concept is a “curable, customizable marketplace of algorithms that help you control how you pay attention.”
Like our approach to algorithmic choice, our approach to moderation enables an ecosystem of third-party providers.
Moderation should be a composable, customizable component that can be integrated into your experience. https://t.co/KJHtHOHSPX
— blue sky (@blue sky) April 14, 2023
In addition to giving users more control over what kind of content they see, Bluesky has plans to “decentralize” control of social media even further. If all goes well, Bluesky itself will be the first of many interconnected social networks to run on the same basic principles.
Bluesky is based on what it is AT protocol, a network that allows servers to communicate with each other. This means you could hypothetically move your account between different social networks that also use the AT protocol without losing your content and followers.
It’s worth noting that this is all a bit theoretical for now; this functionality cannot be used yet.
But it is designed to ultimately to assure of social media influencers who are afraid of losing their audience due to platform rule changes or if they choose to move to another platform.
By invitation only
Another differentiator of Bluesky is that it’s invite-only for now, at least.
Most social media platforms, including Twitter, allow users to register freely. However, Bluesky requires an invite code. Existing users will receive invite codes every two weeks.
Despite at least 360,000 Bluesky app to downloadit has been reported there are only 70,000 users. Media reported earlier this month that there was a staggering number 1.9 million people on the waiting list.
With so many people curious to get in, the Bluesky invites became a hot item. You can find them on eBay for between A$50 and $200; some lists demanded much more.
The invite-only design allows for steady user growth, avoiding a rapid influx of users followed by a sudden loss of interest.
And potential new users patiently waiting for an invite are already familiar with Bluesky. Flooding other social media platforms with requests for invite codes add interestat.
Every new Bluesky user knows at least one existing user. It ensures that users have something in common to post about.
It seems that the creators of Bluesky wanted to selectively bring in like-minded individuals from the start, rather than trying to eliminate problem users after the fact.
Others participation it almost feels like a group chat. Bluesky has particularly resonated with marginalized communities transgender peoplewho may feel safer expressing themselves there than on other social media sites.
But will this last?
As we’ve all seen, social media sites come and go.
Decentralized Moderation challenges on Mastodon have resulted in what some users to have described as a “damp” culture. This, coupled with the complicated interface and hard to understand concept of “belonging” to a server may have affected the likelihood of continued success.
Unlike Mastodon, Bluesky has a simple and clear interface. To remain relevant in the long run, Bluesky must strike a delicate balance between curbing hate speech and trolling while maintaining engaging content and discussion. All while being more engaging than your inner circle group chats.