First Impressions: Bluesky
The Jack Dorsey-backed social networking protocol shows an immense amount of promise as a Twitter alternative.
In the wake of Tesla “co-founder” and feline feces appreciator Elon Musk’s acquisition and decimation of Twitter, several alternatives have begun to gain traction. One of immense promise is Bluesky, a protocol built by none other than Twitter itself — but spun out into an independent company in 2021. Backed by Jack Dorsey, it is quickly gaining steam after upping the invites available for its currently closed beta.
Like some other alternatives, Bluesky seeks to be more decentralized and open than Twitter. Rather than optimizing to push as many ads on you as possible and, now in the Elon era, put lots of features behind a subscription to milk as much money as possible, Bluesky instead will let anyone become a provider for the decentralized protocol in a manner similar to Mastodon.
However, unlike Mastodon, more aspects are standardized across the protocol, rather than putting you in a position of having to choose which fiefdom in the federation of servers to trust. For instance, all usernames on the site are simply domain names standardized across the protocol – one can literally add a record to their DNS settings to use any domain they own. However, to make things easy for newcomers, a subdomain will be set up for you under the “bsky.social” domain. The URL itself doesn’t go anywhere, but it uses the same data source to validate your profile as websites are routed to their destination.
Several features from Twitter are not yet implemented, such as blocking and rich media embeds. However, what is there is a more than useful network, and the developers are rapidly adding new features. In the couple of days since I’ve joined, they’ve added muting accounts and added dark mode to browser – which was already in the iOS app.
The openness of the protocol means it will be easy to make custom clients with any sort of features that can either be enforced on the client side or are supported by the protocol itself. This has also enabled people to have more freedom creating bots, leading to the already infamous takeover of the timeline by “Berduck,” an AI rubber ducky that replies in a cutesy voice.
While it is hard to say at this point whether Bluesky can truly topple Twitter, to me it seems the most viable contender. That’s not to say the others have no merits, but Bluesky has mainstream potential the others lack. Mastodon’s approach to federation is too confusing for basic users. Lens and Farcaster are so crypto-focused in a time when we are still far from mainstream crypto adoption. Spoutible feels more like the equivalent of a popular politics vBulletin forum in microblog style — a site that will ultimately be a community more than a community of communities.
The combination of a focus on decentralization, a great team, and solid UX make Bluesky a compelling choice in a time when Twitter grows progressively worse by the day. It is as close to a spiritual successor to Twitter as we will ever get — and one that was thankfully put in the hands of a great team before it could be destroyed too. Instead, it can serve as the next step forward towards something less about milking money and more about actual communication.
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