Is the grass greener on the other side? We’re not sure, but the sky is definitely bluer. It’s been over a year since Elon Musk announced his bid to buy Twitter, and those opposed to the sale have tried to set up shop on platforms such as Mastodon, Substack Notes, T2… Blue Sky.
Bluesky remains in invite-only beta, but as more people visit the site, the hype around it grows – although, as we know from apps like Clubhouse, the hype may not last forever. Bluesky now has about 50,000 users, but according to data.ai estimates, the app has been downloaded more than 375,000 times. So many people try to get an invite that they show up on eBay (we don’t recommend making that purchase).
Here we answer the most frequently asked questions about Bluesky social:
What is Bluesky?
Bluesky is a decentralized social app conceived by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and developed in parallel with Twitter. The social network features a Twitter-like user interface with algorithmic choice, a federated design, and community-specific moderation.
Bluesky uses an in-house built open-source framework called the AT protocol, which means people outside the company are transparent about how it’s built and what’s being developed.
Dorsey introduced the Bluesky project in 2019 while still CEO of Twitter. At the time, he said Twitter would fund a “small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers and designers” tasked with building a decentralized social media standard, with the original goal of Twitter adopting this standard itself. . But that was before Elon Musk bought the platform, so as of late 2022, Bluesky is completely separate from Twitter. Dorsey has even used Bluesky to voice his displeasure with Musk’s leadership.
Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers and designers to develop an open and decentralized social media standard. The goal is for Twitter to eventually become a customer of this standard. 🧵
— jack (@jack) December 11, 2019
How do you use Bluesky?
Once invited, users create a handle that then appears as @username.bsky.social, as well as a display name that appears more prominently in bold text. If you’re so inclined, you can turn a domain name you own into your username – AapkaDost’s Darrell Etherington, for example, is known on Bluesky as @etherington.com.
The app itself works just like a bare-bones Twitter, where you can click a plus button to create a 256-character post, which can also include photos. Posts themselves can be replied to, retweeted, liked and, from a three-dot menu, reported, shared to other apps via the iOS Share Sheet, or copied as text.
You can find and follow other people and then see their updates in your Home timeline. There’s also a ‘What’s Hot’ timeline, which brings up compelling posts. User profiles contain the same kind of features you would expect: a profile photo, background, biography and statistics, and how many people follow them. Profile feeds are divided into two sections, like Twitter: Posts and Posts & Replies.
There’s also a ‘Discover’ tab in the bottom center of the app’s navigation, which offers more ‘who to follow’ suggestions and a running feed of recently posted Bluesky updates.
How do I get invited to Bluesky?
New users receive an invite code every two weeks when they use the Bluesky app. The company is monitoring the social graph and giving users who invite trusted participants more invite codes to share.
In the long run, Bluesky says it sees the invite code system as part of the open-source tool it’s building to help server admins manage and moderate their communities.
Who’s on Bluesky?
By the end of April 2023, Bluesky reached 50,000 users on the platform. Notable figures and organizations from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to Twitter exile NPR have found a new home on Bluesky.
Does Bluesky work like Twitter?
In many ways, yes. However, Bluesky doesn’t have DMs yet or some advanced tools like adding accounts to lists. In addition, Twitter does not use a decentralized protocol like ActivityPub or AT.
Bluesky was initially kicked off as a project convened by Jack Dorsey in 2019 when he was CEO of Twitter. But the social app has been an independent company since its foundation in 2021.
Is Bluesky free?
Yes, but it is currently invite-only access.
Is Bluesky decentralized?
Yes. Bluesky’s team develops the decentralized AT protocol, upon which Bluesky is built. . In the beta phase, users will only be able to join the bsky.social network, but Bluesky plans to be federated, which means endless individually curated communities could exist within the open source network. So if a developer outside of Bluesky were to build their own new social app using the AT protocol, Bluesky users could jump into the new app and transfer their existing followers, handle, and data.
Is Bluesky on iOS and Android?
Yes. Bluesky was rolled out to Android users on April 20 and initially launched for iOS users in late February. The platform technically doesn’t have a web app yet, but once you’re logged in and go to staging.bsky.app, a whole new world opens up for you.
Are Bluesky messages really called ‘skeets’?
There is technically no name for messages, but internet users have adopted the name “skeets”, a portmanteau of “tweet” and “sky”. Users still frequently refer to posts as “skeet,” despite protests from Bluesky CEO Jay Graber and others who find the jargon for semen not amusing.
Why do people post about the ‘hellthread’?
Alas, hell. You should have been there. Basically, too many people commented on one thread, all the people in the thread stopped notifications, the post became impossible to mute, the thread split into a number of different subthreads… It was chaos and the developer who could fix it was off work until Monday—since it was the weekend—and he rightly stood his ground and took his days off, especially since he’d just worked tirelessly to get the lock feature working. Oh, the joy of small startup teams! But this meant that the hellthread spread all weekend. As prominent shitposter June wrote, “so far on day 3 of the hero thread I’ve seen nudes, a game of tic tac toe, found love, what can’t the hero thread do.”
If you reply to the hellthread, you get stuck in the hellthread – that is, you start getting all the notifications, but you can’t scroll that far up to see the entire hellthread, which makes it a bit confusing, and also how do you know if you are in the main thread or a subthread? It’s easier to conceptualize the hellwire if you think of it more like a helltree, with roots and branches of varying size and strength.
To paraphrase Bluesky CEO Jay Graber, any bug that’s been around long enough becomes a feature.
Oh, there was also a duck bot that kept replying to the hellthread by saying “😔🐥 No 💸, no qwack…”
What is the difference between Bluesky and Mastodon?
While Bluesky’s architecture is similar to Mastodon’s, many users find Bluesky to be more intuitive, while Mastodon can seem inaccessible: choosing which instance to join feels like an impossible task on Mastodon, and longtime users are very defensive about their established postal norms, which can make participation in the conversation intimidating. To stay competitive, Mastodon recently simplified the signup flow, making mastodon.social the default server for new users.
Who owns Bluesky?
Although Jack Dorsey funded Bluesky and sits on the company’s board, he is not involved in day-to-day development. The CEO of Bluesky is Jay Graber, who previously worked as a software engineer for the cryptocurrency Zcash and went on to found an event planning site called Happening.
If you have more frequently asked questions about Bluesky that are not covered here, feel free to leave a comment below.