Users continue to flock to other social networks in the wake of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover. One such platform is Bluesky.
It’s been a tumultuous year for Twitter, to say the least. Since Tech-world heavyweight Elon Musk took over as CEO of the platform a year ago, a number of alternative platforms have grown in popularity. Though the opposition is certainly noteworthy (Mastodon managed to attract 1,000,000 amount of sign-ups in the wake of Musk’s takeover) Twitter’s alternatives aren’t yet drawing the same numbers. But there’s a new option for those who no longer feel served by the original micro-blogging platform, and it’s name is Bluesky.
So, what is Bluesky?
Well, it’s all a little vague right now. Bluesky is still in beta mode and is being selective in who it invites to join. But, per their official website, the app is described as a microblogging client that seeks to work more like email, blogs, and phone numbers. They have developed their own protocol (a set of rules or procedures for transmitting data between electronic devices – just like those emails, blogs, phone numbers) called AT Protocol. AT Protocol is still a work in progress, but it forms the basis of the Bluesky app.
What’s an AT Protocol, anyway?
Let’s talk about what happens when you delete your Twitter account, even your Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and so on; that data is lost forever. No matter what you created, or the connections you made on that platform, they belong, ultimately, to the authority of that platform. When you choose to cut ties, you lose access to all of it. In Bluesky’s words, creators “might spend years cultivating an audience only to lose access to it when the platform changes the rules on you” – exactly what many of Musk’s naysayers feel Twitter has done.
The AT Protocol that Bluesky is working on is decentralized, meaning anyone can have visibility on how it’s built. It operates like a passport or cell phone number for those who want to move between social networks. It’ll provide a standard format for identity and data, allowing users to take all of theirs with them if they choose to switch platforms. To use Bluesky’s own analogy – instead of losing all your friends and furnishings every time you move house, you get to take them with you.
Who started it?
Surprisingly enough, Twitter’s most prominent challenger to date actually comes from… Twitter.
Ex-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey created the Bluesky project back in 2019. Tweeting at the time, he said:
However, these days, the app sits separate to Twitter. Dorsey handed over the reigns to Jay Graber in 2021, and in 2022 under Musk’s leadership, Twitter cut its service agreement with the app – to which Bluesky had no objections.
So now, it’s completely independent.
What are the key features?
The interfaces are fairly similar to that of Twitter, with Bluesky choosing to adopt a vertical-feed style homepage. There are also repost, like, and reply features. Posts on Bluesky, though, are “skeets” – an amalgamation of the word “sky” and, well – “tweets”.
Usernames are similar, in that everyone has an “@”, but handles all adopt a “(name).bsky.social” at the end. It is possible, however, to drop this by purchasing your own domain name. Then, @’s are pretty much identical to those on Twitter. User profiles are also pretty like-for-like with those on Twitter.
As we mentioned, Bluesky is still in the early phases. Recently it’s been struggling with several bugs – most infamously, the “hellthread” – caused by a coding error. This error meant anyone who’d posted in that thread was inundated with notifications. Thus erupted an online party of sorts, where users took the opportunity to share all manner of tongue-in-cheek content.
Where do I sign up?
The first thing you need to know is that Bluesky is currently invite-only. In order to source one of those coveted invites, you’ll need to know someone who’s already a member.
New members receive two invites to share every fortnight, which they must carefully gift to suitable recipients. Bluesky are said to actually be keeping track of the quality of invites users send and rewarding high-quality recruiters with more invites. Why the lock and key format? For one, Bluesky is still in beta mode, so there’s a lot of work to still be done. US Heads of State are currently blocked from joining the platform, as are other notable guests, for fear of overloading Bluesky’s systems. Secondly, creators are hoping the invite-only format will make it easier for admins to curate and moderate content. Whether this will change anytime soon is uncertain.
That’s about all we have on Bluesky currently. To keep track of the latest updates on the app, stay tuned on their official website.
Image courtesy of Blueskyweb.xyz.