Bluesky Becomes the Hottest Club Online as Twitter Users Fight for Invites
Imagine a distant future in which humans compete for passenger seats on a spaceship headed away from this dying Earth to a more habitable planet. That’s more or less the current scene on Twitter — a slowly collapsing social network — as people scramble for access to Bluesky, a decentralized alternative that emerged from Twitter itself under co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey.
The desperation to flee a once-dominant app stems from the many changes made to it by current owner Elon Musk, who acquired the platform for $44 billion last year. Since then, it has welcomed back hate speech and conspiracist accounts, grown increasingly glitchy as Musk slashed staff, and abolished the old identity verification system in favor of paid subscriptions to Twitter Blue, which has allowed all manner of trolls and grifters to buy an algorithmic boost on the site.
Bluesky, whose interface resembles Twitter without certain features (including blocks and direct messages), holds promise as an escape from this cesspit, with some early adopters describing its user experience as similar to “early” Twitter, even nicknaming it “Twitter 2.” There’s just one issue: Bluesky is currently in private beta, accessible only with an invite code from someone already on there, and a user has to be active for a set amount of time before they receive those links. So part of what makes Bluesky so attractive right now — exclusivity — has contributed to high demand as prospective joiners try to talk their way in. One million people are currently on the waitlist.
Activity on Bluesky has picked up considerably over the past week as the app became available on Android (the iOS version launched in February) and opened the door to hundreds of creators, journalists and shitposters who quickly reestablished the connections they had previously made on Twitter. Until now, the network had just been the Bluesky developers themselves, plus other tech innovators, insiders and influencers from digital communities around the world — but it was on Thursday, for example, that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Twitter godfather @dril joined the platform. The entrances of such powerhouses were seen to mark a monumental shift in online culture.
Gleeful anarchy, goofy new coinages (according to newcomers, posts should be called “skeets”) and predictions of Twitter’s demise have followed on the fledgling app.
“This place feels like class with a substitute teacher who is totally fucked,” wrote Alex Peter, a public defender who has large followings on TikTok and Twitter as @loloverruled. Writer and artist John Paul Brammer noted that the bustle of an expanding Bluesky “feels like our moms all dropped us off at the mall at the exact same time.”
The surge of activity has caused a couple of outages, while the torrent of jokes, memes, and excited chatter has ruffled a few of the tech folks first active on Bluesky. On Thursday, one complained that the new arrivals didn’t understand the unique architecture of the app — it’s built on a new “protocol,” or system for transmitting data over a network — and were treating it like a Twitter clone. “Whoever invited these people, you have doomed us all,” they wrote. Others pushed back, saying mass adoption by lay users who bring chaotic energy to the platform was a net positive.
With the Bluesky user base swelling, many have also speculated that the app will be a torment to Musk as Twitter continues to struggle under his leadership. “This website has the potential to make elon [very] mad,” noted Max Collins of the band Eve6, who has built a significant audience on Twitter. Investigative reporter Ken Klippenstein wrote, “jack is mr. steal elon’s bitch, selling him twitter at a huge markup and replacing it with this.” (He also observed that Musk’s ex, the musician Grimes, is already on the site.)
To be clear, Dorsey sits on the board of Bluesky, which is one of several ventures he’s connected with at present. Its CEO is Jay Graber, who took on the job in 2021, two years after Dorsey announced Bluesky as a Twitter initiative to “develop an open and decentralized standard for social media” — one that Twitter itself would ultimately adopt to give users more autonomy. In theory, such an infrastructure might allow users to operate across multiple apps with one common profile.
“We envision an open social media ecosystem where developers have more opportunity to build and innovate, and users have more choice and control over which services they use and their experience on social media as a whole,” Graber wrote in a February 2022 blog post. (On the app, she’s embraced the opportunity for silliness that others have lately seized, and joined in the collective riffing about a brief database outage on Thursday.)
Bluesky had received $13 million in funding from Twitter as part of a five-year service agreement and was spun out as a legally separate company in early 2022, before Musk offered to buy Twitter outright. After Musk completed that purchase in October, he canceled the Bluesky deal, shutting off further monetary support and ending the commitment to eventually use the team’s protocol at Twitter.
As a result, it’s not entirely clear how Bluesky will be funded going forward, though its leadership has hardly slowed down. They’re still hiring developers, and Graber has emphasized Bluesky’s total independence from the tech giant that incubated it. With billionaire Dorsey backing the concept, it surely has options for securing cash even if Musk has done his best to pull the plug.
None of those concerns have really registered on Bluesky in the past few days, however, as Twitter migrants celebrate the fresh possibilities of a community where — at the very least — you are free from Musk’s godawful posts and hypocritical censorship. As New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie put it on Thursday, “after a few hours of being here i can say finally an app good enough to justify neglecting my children for.”
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