While Elon Musk is making his revolution on Twitter, the former CEO of the social network is preparing to launch a competing service: BlueSky Social. The idea? Give users control over algorithms and their personal data.
Twitter users are very worried about the acquisition of Elon Musk’s social network, especially since the eccentric billionaire has made many controversial decisions and statements since his arrival. After firing leaders and threatening to cut off 75% of employees, he attacked the very functioning of the platform. He has already announced that the certification badge can only be obtained through a paid subscription and that he will relax the moderation rules, which are considered too strict. Many tweeters, big brands and personalities, fear that the blue bird will become a lawless zone where hatred and misinformation spreads, and worry about political change (see our article). This is where the hashtag #TwitterMigration has trended and many are looking for a “replacement” to get to the nest. And the solution may come more and not less from the former CEO of Twitter – who resigned in November 2021 – Jack Dorsey!
BlueSky Social: a decentralized and federated social network
In fact, on October 25, a few days before the official acquisition of Twitter, Jack Dorsey inaugurated his new social network, BlueSky Social, where he has been working since 2019 – long before he resigned. Although the new platform is not yet in beta, it has already garnered over 30,000 signups just two days after its inauguration. It must be said that his concept has something to attract on paper. The entrepreneur wants nothing more or less than to change the way social networks work! He wanted to develop a common standard that would allow different services to communicate with each other – that’s what we call it interoperability. It’s like how email works – where it doesn’t matter which email is used, the email always goes to the recipient – but for social networks. An ambitious project – perhaps too much?
You should know that the main social network services, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, are centralized, that is, they store all the data in one place, that they can change what the user is and how they use the platform as they see fit. They are in charge of everything that happens here! Of course, this has an impact on important issues such as data privacy, moderation and even censorship in some cases – just in case, let’s mention WeChat, which serves as a model for Elon Musk. On the contrary, a decentralized social network is not controlled or managed by a single entity, and it aims to give users more power, more freedom and guarantee the protection of their privacy – such as Mastodon, DTube , Diaspora, etc. This is how BlueSky Social will be used. It consists of several servers managed by different entities – this is called a federated social network. But it doesn’t just have benefits, because you have to find a way for people around the world to work together to run a system without changing or removing the algorithms that make it work.
BlueSky Social: power and control over users
BlueSky Social uses the open protocol AT (Authenticated Transfer Protocol) which is not among the platform leaders. It allows an unlimited amount of different services to work with each other as long as they use said protocol. A person can create his own social network, using his own infrastructure or the host of his choice, and interact with BlueSky Social. “While the Web exchanges documents, the AT Protocol exchanges schematic and semantic information, allowing software from different organizations to understand each other’s data. It provides ATP clients with freedom to create user interfaces independently of servers and eliminates the need to change rendering code (HTML /JS/CSS) when browsing content“, explained BlueSky Social on its blog.
BlueSky Social’s goal is to give the user back complete control over his personal data. The platform has already sketched its main lines of operation. Each member will have a digital identity that only he will hold. It can be transferred from one platform to another without any restrictions or limitations from Jack Dorsey’s new social network or anyone else. “A person’s online identity should not be owned by corporations that have no responsibility to their users”explains the company in a blog post.
Internet users will also be able to control recommendation algorithms to decide for themselves what content they want to consume, and how the social network works for them. “Algorithms dictate what we see and who we can reach. We must have control over our algorithms if we are to trust our online spaces” , the company said. However, he did not explain how the user could manipulate the algorithm at will. Further details should be released soon.
BlueSky Social: a serious competitor for Twitter?
No launch date has been given for BlueSky Social yet. However, it is possible to register on the waiting list at https://bsky.app/ to test the beta version, which shouldn’t take long. Eventually, if everything goes well, it will be open to the general public, as indicated by the leaders of the new social network, without giving further details. At first, the platform will only be available through a web browser, but a mobile application must come later – otherwise, the project will not work.
But can BlueSky Social be a serious competitor for Twitter? It’s too early to say, because the social network is still in its infancy. The context is certainly favorable to the controversies provoked by Elon Musk’s decisions and announcements, and the status of Jack Dorsey brings visibility and legitimacy to the project. The principle of this social network is in any case very innovative, but it must prove itself to hope to attract the general public. And this is one of the difficulties with any new social network: as incredible as its concept is, it is not interesting until there are many people on it – the Wikipedia social network can prove it. And the risk of BlueSky Social is the same as for Mastodon – which is currently experiencing an increase in popularity thanks to the acquisition of Twitter – especially the complexity of its operation, which may prove too technical for most users.