Do you want to leave the Twitter ecosystem? Bluesky, the Twitter alternative backed by Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, has now rolled out to Android users. The app, which promises a future of decentralized social networking and self-selection algorithms, first launched for iOS users in late February and remains in closed beta.
The exclusivity is to some extent driving demand for the newer social network, but so is the Dorsey name. For many, Bluesky represents the hope of a Twitter do-over — where the core concepts around short messages and a shared timeline remain, but the issues around moderation and centralized control are addressed.
Bluesky wants to give users algorithmic choice, ultimately allowing them to choose from a marketplace of algorithms that let them control what they see on their own feed, rather than it being controlled by a central authority.
At launch, however, Bluesky remains a pared-down version of Twitter without many of the features that make the social network what it is today, including basic tools for tracking likes or bookmarks, editing tweets, tweeting quotes , DMs, using hashtags and more. It also builds in decentralization with its own protocol – the AT protocol – rather than adding to the existing work around ActivityPub, the protocol that powers the open source Twitter alternative Mastodon and a range of other decentralized apps in the wider “Fediverse – the name for these interconnected servers run open software used for web publishing.
That puts Bluesky on the outside of where much of the current activity is happening around decentralized social networks.
While Mastodon has been criticized for being too complicated or having bad vibes, the protocol behind it has sometimes spawned a wave of new developments following Elon Musk’s chaotic takeover of Twitter. Former Twitter app makers turned their attention to the social network after Musk unceremoniously cut off their access to Twitter’s API, with newly launched polished Mastodon clients like Ivory and Mammoth. Flipboard and Medium have also taken an active role in the community by setting up their own Mastodon servers, and Tumblr has been considering the options.
Despite the challenges, demand for Bluesky seems to be picking up. Anecdotally, it’s felt like the demand for Bluesky access has increased in recent weeks, thanks in part to Bluesky’s waitlist system and the limited number of invites available. The network has recently let in more users and now claims to have a small user base of around 20,000.
However, the demand for Bluesky could be even higher. According to app intelligence firm data.ai, Bluesky has seen 240,000 lifetime installs on iOS, including 135,000 this month alone, a 39% increase from March’s 97,000.
With the arrival of the app on Android, it is clear that Bluesky wants to grow that number further.
What’s not clear is how Bluesky’s future development will be funded. Last year Bluesky received $13 million as it sprang from Twitter, giving it the freedom and independence to embark on R&D. Jack Dorsey will remain on the board, but besides Block he will also spend his time on other projects, such as Nostr. And it’s unlikely that Musk’s Twitter will continue to fund its competitor – in fact, it’s crazy that Twitter’s own board ever allowed it!
That could put Bluesky in a position where it will need to raise more capital at some point, putting it in competition with other Twitter alternatives seeking financial backing from investors. Alongside Mastodon, T2, Spill, Post and others are now walking the same path, hoping to lure disgruntled users into their own app ecosystems. But that means the Twitter diaspora may end up not finding “new Twitter” but dozens of smaller communities offering a Twitter-like experience instead.