Boardroom breaks down what Bluesky is, how a decentralized social media app works, and why the former Twitter CEO created it in the first place.
Bluesky Social is a new decentralized social media network that competes most directly with Twitter. The platform launched in beta earlier this year, and has already surpassed 600,000 downloads, with over a million interested users on the wait list as of mid-June. Bluesky opened its waitlist in October 2022 before releasing its invite-only iOS app in February. The Android companion dropped in late April.
The platform has seen much success before fully launching its product. Let’s take a closer look at how the app reached this stage and what may be next.
The Bluesky Origin
Just to be clear, Bluesky is Bluesky Social’s parent company, though both entities go by just Bluesky.
It started as a small side initiative within Twitter in 2019 that focused on developing an open-source, decentralized standard for social media networks. Then-Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal managed it before he took over as Twitter CEO. Bluesky became an incorporated business in 2021 before completely cutting ties with Twitter in 2022. Still, the company’s mission remained the same. It aims to build a decentralized social network protocol that would give applications full autonomy over their platforms, from preventing virality algorithms to customizing their moderation systems.
Bluesky shared its open source code, dubbed the Authenticated Transfer (AT) Protocol, in May 2022, which details the platform’s technology and how it was built. Any developer, business, or user can tap the AT Protocol to build decentralized social media networks, but Bluesky is the only platform running on its own tech right now. While Dorsey hoped Twitter would run on Bluesky’s AT Protocol, that seems a bit far-fetched with Elon Musk at the helm right now.
Jay Garber, a software engineer and cryptocurrency expert, has served as Bluesky’s first CEO since August 2021. Dorsey sits on the company’s board of directors. It’s unclear how big Bluesky’s staff is, but the company made some protocol engineer hires back in May 2022 to comprise its core team.
How It Works
Bluesky is a microblogging alternative to Twitter — yes, with a logo that is just a blue sky. The platform’s user interface is set up much like the Musk-led competitor we know. As for gaining access, interested users can join the waitlist or receive an invite from a current user. Bluesky has more than 100,000 users, and invite codes are reportedly selling on eBay for up to $200 each.
Bluesky operates almost identically to Twitter, with some decentralized tweaks. Users can create their own handles and display names, or they can turn a domain name they own into their username. The platform itself functions like Twitter in the early days — simplistic and light-hearted, which shouldn’t be a surprise coming from Dorsey. Each post on Bluesky gets 256 characters and can include photos. Users can re-post, like, and reply to posts. Users can follow each other, check out the “What’s Hot” section for trending topics, search, or stay on the Home timeline for chronological updates from accounts they follow.
Unlike Twitter, however, Bluesky doesn’t yet have a listing system or private messaging option. Bluesky’s app is still in development, so we may see those features later.
What’s Next for Bluesky?
Does Bluesky have the power and infrastructure to win over a mainstream audience? We don’t know just yet, but we’ve seen how Twitter alternative Mastodon has been expanding. Mastodon isn’t as intuitive and navigable as Bluesky, though it has amassed more than 10 million total users since it launched its decentralized social network in 2016.
Bluesky’s early success signals that it might be on the right track to mass adoption. Boardroom will be following how the blockchain-enabled social network grows when it officially hits the market.
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