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Something to look forward to: Social media companies and platforms have been turned on their heads over the last several years. Companies have changed hands, users have come and gone as fast as checkmarks and metaverses, and multiple startups have made a run at picking off users in hopes of becoming the next big platform. Now, a formerly Twitter-backed project is attracting a lot of attention and being heralded as the answer to our “social media problems.”
Jack Dorsey’s decentralized social media platform was established in 2019 as a Twitter-funded project designed to establish a decentralized social media standard. Bluesky’s original goal was to create and bring Twitter onto a new, decentralized platform. The company instead broke away several years later establishing itself as Bluesky PBLLC in 2022.
At first glance, the platform very closely matches Twitter’s UI. Social media veterans will find the color schemes, icons, layouts, and other design choices resemble what they’ve come to know for the last 17 years. But unlike its blue bird-based progenitor, Bluesky runs on a decentralized network designed to ensure that content moderation, data storage, and platform control responsibilities are passed back to the community rather than a single governing body.
The platform is currently running an invite-only closed beta, reportedly gaining steady momentum since its iOS launch in February and Android app launch earlier this month. While the platform currently serves approximately 40,000 authorized users, downloads of the Bluesky iOS app indicate more than 375,000 Apple users awaiting access. The app has also been downloaded more than 100,000 times since the Android release.
Bluesky isn’t the first attempt at establishing a decentralized social media platform. Launched back in 2016, Mastodon provides users with independently run instances that function according to their own codes of conduct, terms of service, privacy policies, and content moderation rules. The servers operate using the W3C’s ActivityPub standard, allowing users to interact with users existing on other federated servers. Bluesky works in a similar manner using the more recent AT Protocol.
The new social media solution has started to attract some of Twitter’s bigger names. While it is too early to tell if Bluesky will become their “new home,” Twitter mainstays including Chrissy Teigen, James Gunn, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Twitter’s infamous Dril have already begun advertising their presence on the new platform.
While some users see the platform as a breath of fresh air, others have criticized it for creating yet another decentralized solution rather than contributing to the already-established ActivityPub-based platform. The Mastodon team even took an early jab at Dorsey and Bluesky, offering the team a jumpstart into decentralized development back in 2019.
Time will tell if Bluesky has the momentum and staying power to become a real player. Fueled by hype as well as Twitter’s ongoing checkmark and paywall saga, Bluesky is bound to attracting more long time and possibly even high profile users from Twitter, Mastodon, and other platforms. The big question now is, can they manage to keep them?