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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Bluesky: What you need to know about the invite-only Twitter alternative | Science & Tech News

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Not for the first time, Elon Musk has people looking to jump ship from Twitter.

The billionaire sent many of the platform’s users into a frenzy at the weekend when he applied temporary reading limits for all accounts, with even more stringent restrictions for those who don’t pay for its subscription service.

For some who had stuck around since his controversial takeover last October, it was the final straw and time to find pastures new or, as Musk joked, to go outside and touch grass (not with my hay fever, thank you very much).

Cue an onslaught of people seeking access to an invite-only app called Bluesky – a familiar looking alternative that some hope could be the perfect lifeboat to escape Twitter‘s seemingly sinking ship.

What is Bluesky?

Like Twitter once was, it’s associated with Jack Dorsey, who introduced the project back in 2019.

He must have been an extremely busy man, as he was still running “the bird app” (as many Bluesky users now dismissively label Twitter) at the time.

It takes a decentralised approach to social media, one where different platforms and communities can interoperate rather than all live under one corporate banner like Twitter or Facebook.

But before we get into that, know that at a surface level, Bluesky looks and works a lot like “the bird app” – you have followers and follow people, whose posts appear in a timeline; and can repost rather than retweet, and quote post instead of quote tweet; and get suggestions for new people you might like to connect with.

You can also post images and links, but that’s as fancy as it gets. There’s no direct messages, video or live streams, meaning most people are just shouting into the void like it’s 2009 on Twitter.

Four followers? Pathetic
Image:
Four followers? Pathetic

Right, what does ‘decentralised’ mean?

It may help not to think of Bluesky as a single social media platform, but a network of different ones, where each community has its own moderation team and users have full control over their data.

For example, if you get sick of where your account is based, you can pick it up and move it somewhere else – a welcome solution to the dilemma many are facing about abandoning Twitter.

At least, that’s the ambition.

Unlike Mastodon, another Twitter-like which surged in popularity after Musk’s takeover, for now Bluesky limits new users to the bsky.social network. Anyone visiting my profile would see I am tomiyacres@bsky.social.

On Mastodon, users can join a general network or one more tuned to their interests or where they live, like @mastodonapp.uk or @mastodon.cats, but still talk to each other. Bluesky

An upcoming Twitter rival from Meta will also be decentralised, but whether all these different services could truly interoperate will depend on the standard – or protocol – they use.

Mastodon uses one called ActivityPub, and it’s believed Meta’s one will too. But Bluesky uses its own and will need others to adopt it to work together.

Read more:
Everything you need to know about Mastodon
Did Elon Musk’s first actions lose Twitter users?

Goodbye blue bird, hello multicoloured elephants!
Image:
Unlike Mastodon, Bluesky is seriously lacking a cute mascot

This is all sounds very complicated – why are people joining?

It’s certainly a lot to get your head round, and Bluesky’s solution appears to be to shove all the complexities of a decentralised network into the background.

Once you sign up and log in, it’s eerily similar to late 2000s Twitter and easy to understand.

It’s even got its own limited, early array of famous faces, from film director Edgar Wright to US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

There are also a few news outlets, like Musk’s despised Washington Post, but you are not going to find sports clubs, film studios and brands.

There’s also no verification at the moment, paid or otherwise.

AOC is on Bluesky
Image:
AOC is on Bluesky

What’s Jack Dorsey’s involvement?

Not a lot, actually.

While he funded Bluesky and sits on the company’s board, he doesn’t have a hands-on development role.

Bluesky’s chief executive, the role Dorsey once had at Twitter, is Jay Graber.

FILE PHOTO: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey addresses students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, India, November 12, 2018
Image:
Jack Dorsey, once of Twitter, funded Bluesky’s development

Why do I need an invite to join?

Bluesky isn’t fully open for business yet, and only hit 100,000 users last month.

It had to pause new sign-ups over the weekend, as the onslaught of interest saw its app buckle under the pressure.

That’s because it’s still in a testing phase, meaning newbies must get an invite code from an existing user, who are handed one every two weeks to offer up. Those deemed “trustworthy” may get more.

Nothing says 'we're still testing this thing' like features being switched off
Image:
Nothing says ‘we’re still testing this thing’ like features being switched off

Can you send me one?

No, sorry

Besides, you’re unlikely to be able to curate a feed akin to your Twitter timeline yet. For now, it feels like you’ve just started at secondary school – you recognise some kids who made the same move, but there are plenty who you’ll just have to try to catch up with elsewhere.



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