- Twitter spinoff Bluesky currently has 20,000 users and a waitlist of 1.2 million.
- Bluesky’s ADX protocol is now the AT Protocol which enables account portability, global discoverability, and composable, customizable curation and moderation.
- Bluesky’s long-term business prospects remain unclear as it focuses on scale.
One month after Bluesky hit the Play Store, CEO Jay Graber spoke to The Verge’s Alex Heath to discuss where the social media platform stands, the possibility of its incubator’s leader, Twitter chief Elon Musk banning it, and its future prospects.
So far, Bluesky has let in 20,000 people to try out the private beta version of the platform. The platform had a waitlist of 1.2 million requests post Musk’s takeover of Twitter, according to Graber.
â€œRight now, Bluesky’s interface is a shameless clone of Twitter,â€ Heath wrote after testing it as one of the users with early access to the decentralized social media platform.
An internal not-for-profit R&D initiative at Twitter that began months before co-founder Jack Dorsey departed the company, Bluesky aims to lead the next generation of social media platforms. Moreover, the company hopes to make its underlying protocol the basis of next-gen social networks.
Bluesky Is Built on a Decentralized Social Protocol
The AT Protocol or the Authenticated Transfer Protocol (formerly Authenticated Data eXperiment or ADX) is a decentralized social protocol designed to bring content interoperability between multiple platforms and eliminate access barriers from different networks.
Translation: Content on one social media platform will be viewable and accessible on other platforms running on the same protocol. It also imparts control to respective platforms to moderate content according to their policy.
This is the crux of the protocol and the entire concept of decentralized social media. For instance, late last year, Twitter banned links to Mastodon, Instagram, Truth Social, Facebook, Tribel, Post, and Nostr for 48 hours before reversing the decision.
When asked whether he was ready for Elon to ban their links, Graber replied, â€œAs the owner of a centralized site, he is free to do that if he wants. But this is exactly why what we’re building is important â€” the AT Protocol gives users freedom, and developers locked-open APIs.â€
Decentralization is basically bringing in structural changes to how social networks are designed and enabling users to do more. As such, if a user gets banned on a decentralized platform, all they’d need to do is migrate to another platform without having to rebuild previous connections.
More importantly, users also have more power to wield regarding hate speech, racism, pornography or other obscene content, spam, etc.
ActivityPub is another decentralized protocol leveraged by the microblogging platform Mastodon, federated hosting service Nextcloud, federated video streaming service PeerTube, image-sharing platform Pixelfed, social media platform Diaspora, and others.
â€œWe don’t see ourselves as being in competition with Mastodon â€” we welcome approaches to decentralize social platforms and are simply taking a different, opinionated approach. Our focus right now is on building out our approach and proving it works at scale,â€ Graber told The Verge.
The AT Protocol goes beyond ActivityPub in terms of functionality, according to Graber. She added, â€œWe’ve designed a protocol with three big things we think are missing from the Mastodon ecosystem: account portability, global discoverability, and composable, customizable curation and moderation.â€
Account portability is the ability to move user accounts from one provider to another without losing any data or social graph, choice of algorithms for content delivery, interoperation, and performance.
Composable and customizable curation refers to anyone being able to create or subscribe to moderation labels by third parties as opposed to one company controlling it.
Bluesky has been funded with $13 million so far. It functioned as an independent unit within Twitter and has spun off with Dorsey as a board member.
Twitter’s funding of Bluesky is not subject to any conditions except one: that Bluesky is to research and develop technologies that enable open and decentralized public conversation.
â€” bluesky (@bluesky) April 25, 2022Opens a new window
While at Twitter, Dorsey envisioned the microblogging platform to have decentralized roots. With him no longer at the company’s helm, it is unclear if Twitter will adopt the AT Protocol.
On being asked about the progress at Bluesky, Dorsey responded, â€œMoving fast. Not competitive to Twitter. Supportive.â€
Graber told The Verge that while the Bluesky team is exploring some ideas for a viable business, they are currently focusing on short-term challenges, including moderation and growth.
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