Elon Musk, with a sink in hand, took the global centre stage as he completed his Twitter takeover on October 27. The deal was worth $44 billion and had the entire cryptosphere and tech industry talking.
However, a tiny Twitter off-shoot established in 2019 is also creating ripples after announcing the upcoming launch of its beta testing app.
The project is called Bluesky and was commissioned by Jack Dorsey when he was still the CEO of Twitter.
And with more than 30,000 signups for its waitlist in less than two days, the project is quickly being touted as an alternative and perhaps even a replacement for the Musk-owned Twitter.
But what is Bluesky?
Bluesky is a public benefit corporation trying to build a new “open and decentralised” form of social media. The platform aims to create a standard protocol for social media platforms.
Once fully developed, it would allow separate social media networks to interact with each other via an open standard, despite each network having its own curation and moderation systems.
Bluesky was conceived as the solution to the failures of Twitter. It was announced at a time when social media networks were being accused of data misappropriation, misinformation and election interference. In fact, Jack Dorsey introduced the project in a Twitter thread that justified the ban of Donald Trump on the platform.
“We are trying to do our part by funding an initiative around an open decentralised standard for social media. Our goal is to be a client of that standard for the public conversation layer of the internet. We call it Bluesky,” read Dorsey’s tweet.
Essentially, Bluesky was created and funded by its parent company, Twitter, and the goal was for Twitter to eventually adopt the technology. To that extent, Bluesky received $13 million in funding from Twitter, with no conditions or commitments except to keep the research going.
How will Bluesky function?
Twitter was looking to solve an issue that almost every social media platform faced. How does one regulate the speech of millions of users without running the risk of overreaching, leave alone the risk to the company’s bottom line?
To tackle this issue, Twitter decided to fund a “small independent team” of up to five software developers tasked to create “an open and decentralised standard for social media.”
Essentially, what Bluesky aims to create is a “decentralised” protocol for social media. This would allow companies and individuals to build apps, services, or recommendation algorithms on the same underlying networks and data.
It’s like how email works; you can send a mail to someone who uses a different email service and still be sure your message and attachment will get through.
That’s because email is built with technical rules such as HTTP and TCP/IP, which provide a common standard for how computers should communicate with each other over a network.
Such “protocols” are open source, allowing anyone to use or build products on top of them. That’s what Bluesky is looking to develop, but for social media applications.
The upcoming AT Protocol
In early May this year, Bluesky introduced its first working protocol, the Authenticated Data Experiment or ADX. After months of further exploration, the public benefit corporation announced the upcoming launch of its improved beta testing app, the Authenticated Transfer Protocol or AT Protocol.
The project touts itself as a social internet and aims to provide a common platform that will power the next generation of social applications.
The Protocol will provide users with four unique features: account portability, algorithmic choice, interoperation, and performance. Account portability will allow you to move your account from one provider to another without losing your data or social graph.
The algorithmic choice will allow you more control over your online experience. For instance, if you were unhappy with YouTube’s automated recommendations, you could move to another platform that employs a different recommendation system for the same videos.
Finally, the app will provide you with all these features without compromising performance. The AT Protocol is built for fast loading and quick performance, even at large scales.
Will Elon Musk rally behind Bluesky?
Bluesky’s leading proponent, Jack Dorsey, is no longer part of Twitter. Moreover, Elon Musk recently fired Dorsey’s successor, Parag Agrawal. As such, Bluesky has officially lost two of its biggest supporters from within Twitter. This means that future support from the microblogging website would be minimal, if any at all.
However, leaked conversations between Musk and Dorsey paint a different picture. The Tesla CEO is said to have called Bluesky a “super interesting idea” and expressed his desire to help if he could. Dorsey reciprocated that positivity when Musk’s Twitter takeover was announced.
“Elon is the singular solution I trust… this is the right path. I believe it with all my heart,” he said.
This could point to future collaboration between the two. However, Bluesky is still a long way from being a complete product, and only time will tell how things actually shape up.