Bluesky is really, really fun.
Yes, the platform is essentially just Twitter, but decentralized. And yes, Jack Dorsey-powered Bluesky is one of many services that mimic the current look of Twitter. But having spent a few hours on Bluesky since receiving my beta invite this week, it’s the service I’m most excited about so far.
Similar to Mastodon, Bluesky is a federated social network, which basically means users can participate through different providers instead of one big central provider. The simplest analogy is email: if you have Gmail, you can email someone on Apple’s iCloud and they can reply to you.
With Bluesky you can choose from different hosting providers. When I joined the app on Tuesday I selected the default which is Bluesky’s own system. (There is an option to join other providers, but I don’t know what options are available or how to set it up. This may be user error or ignorance.) From there I set my username, which feels more like a Domain reads — jaypeters.bsky.social — and I’ll get to that later.
“This is where it got pretty scenic”
When I first got to the “Following” feed, it was empty, but as I explored more, it didn’t take long to realize that Bluesky already has an extremely active user base, which is now dealing with an influx of newbies like me grapples. Very early on in my Bluesky journey, I stumbled across a post from Jay Graber, the CEO of Bluesky, which helped me get a sense of what to expect.
“This is where it got pretty scenic, so we just emailed 5,000 people on our waiting list. Say hello if you see them seep in!” Graber wrote. In a reply, Graber added, “closely knit subgraph of twitter power users who just joined meek 5,000 people who gave us their email and filled out a form 🤝”
Surfing the What’s Hot section that day was a mishmash of simple internet fun.
One person quoted Graber as apologizing for the “scene stuff” and encouraging new users to jump into conversations. One person wrote “Die Ziege, fr” with a picture of two goats. Several people shared photos of “here I post”. Many appeared serious, like a cozy room and a tiny home; others not, like a picture of an alligator.
Somehow someone followed me within a minute of entering the platform. Minutes later I was also followed by a handful of other users. Turns out I’m not that special; They all have over 20,000 followers already, so they probably just follow each new account as it comes along.
Bluesky felt good all week. For example, my feed wasn’t littered with angry posts about the move from HBO Max to Max — instead, the people I follow seemed most interested in maintaining Bluesky’s current positive culture. Graber has posted about why Bluesky hasn’t launched “against Jack’s wishes” yet until the team develops moderation tools. On Friday, people posted pictures of their bookshelves, “shelfies.” It was fun to scroll.
The challenge for Bluesky will be to maintain its positive environment, and this is exactly what its federated system – the AT protocol – is designed for. The protocol is still in development, but Bluesky’s stated focus areas for it are decentralized social networks, algorithmic selection, and portable accounts. This means that maybe one day I’ll theoretically be able to stay in a domain that isn’t also used by everyone else in the Bluesky app, choose an algorithm that delivers smoother posts, and if I want to leave , just bring my account and followers with me to another app. (It’s worth noting that Twitter owner Elon Musk has expressed an interest in letting you choose your own Twitter algorithm, but we’ll see if that actually happens.)
Bluesky’s moderation tools could also hold the key to the platform’s future. The organization wants you to be able to apply custom filters and labels, and even rely on preferred third-party providers to do that work for you, allowing users to better tailor their social feed to their needs. “Centralized social sites use labeling to implement moderation—we believe this piece can be unbundled, open to third-party innovation, and configured with user agency in mind,” Graber wrote in a blog post. “Everyone should be able to create or subscribe to moderation labels that are created by third parties.”
The network’s domain name system also serves as a sort of handy verification service. For example, the current setup could mean that one day I could have @jay.peters.theverge.com to show that I’m a working journalist at The Verge. Or I could link a domain I own to my Bluesky account to prove I’m who I say I am. If this system takes off, it could solve many of the verification and moderation issues that other platforms have had to deal with.
Bluesky currently feels like a simpler time on the internet
To me, Bluesky currently feels like a simpler time on the internet. It’s a feed-based social network with a community of at least 20,000 people, meaning there’s a lot of activity and conversation, but so far I haven’t seen much toxicity or people running to smack people in quote tweets. It feels like a platform where people just hang out and chat with each other.
It’s too early to tell if Bluesky and the AT protocol will see the same type of activity as things like Mastodon and the ActivityPub protocol. But for now? I’m just enjoying the vibes on my Bluesky feed.