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Jack Dorsey returns with Bluesky, to take down Elon Musk and Twitter

A new competitor – Bluesky – has emerged in the social media rat race, backed by Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey.

Dorsey left Twitter in May 2022, while negotiations were under way with now owner Elon Musk.

Since then, he has been working with a range of tech ventures, including fin-tech giant Block and decentralised social media networks Nostr and Bluesky.

Bluesky, not to be confused with the former production company of the same name, finally landed on Apple’s App Store this week after years of research and development.

But there’s a catch. It’s still in beta testing, and only those with an invitation can create an account.

However, its arrival on the App Store suggests it could open to the public soon.

What is Bluesky?

After leaving as CEO, Dorsey took to Twitter to share his excitement for Bluesky, which he described as “an open decentralised standard for social media”.

Bluesky hasn’t shared too many details about how the platform will function.

But from what we know, Bluesky is based on the AT protocol, a decentralised protocol similar to ActivityPub, the protocol that powers Mastodon.

Similar to Mastodon, Bluesky will operate on independently run servers, rather than on a centralised server owned by a business.

This way, it doesn’t serve so much as a platform, but more as a hub.

According to Bluesky’s blog, the AT Protocol has several advantages, including an open algorithms mode that gives users “more control over their experience”.

From comrade to competitor

Ironically, Bluesky may now be vying for Twitter’s spot as top dog, but it was Twitter that gave the platform its kickstart.

It was originally conceptualised in 2019 as something of an extension of Twitter.

Throughout its research and development, Bluesky received at least $US13 million ($19.3 million) in funding from Twitter.

The two parted ways in 2021 when Bluesky was incorporated as an independent company, with Dorsey placed on its board of directors.

Bluesky considers itself a competitor to Twitter.

“It’s a competitor to any company trying to own the underlying fundamentals for social media or the data of the people using it,” Dorsey said.

What does it look like?

From a quick look at Bluesky’s user interface, you could think it was Twitter.

Users all have a profile and username, like Twitter. But in lieu of an ‘@’ handle, they have a link ending in ‘.bsky.social’.

Profiles also have a similar function to Twitter. A user’s actions on Bluesky are similarly categorised into ‘posts’ and ‘posts and replies’.

The timeline is almost identical, with very slight differences.

When composing a tweet, the text field asks users ‘What’s up?’ instead of ‘What’s happening?’.

Just like Twitter, users can reply, like and repost (instead of retweets), as well as follow, mute and block other accounts.

Users also have a search tab and notifications tab, but there’s no mention of trending topics.

What can I post?

According to VIPs privy with access, Bluesky users can share text and pictures.

It’s unclear yet whether Bluesky will support video or audio, like Twitter does.

When can I join?

It is free for iPhone users to download the app on the Apple App Store, but it’s not yet available for Android users.

But unless you have an invitation, you’ll be unable to create an account and join in the fun, just yet.

Tech enthusiasts predict that with Bluesky in beta testing, a public release won’t be far away.

Bluesky confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s still working through bugs and ironing out kinks – but it’s unclear how long the testing phase will last.

You can join Bluesky’s beta testing waitlist here. But be warned – it’s a long queue.

More than 30,000 people signed up for the waiting list when it opened in October.

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