Why Bluesky Is The New Hotness
Twitter alternative is taking off thanks to hilarious memes and the fact that it is not Twitter.
Bluesky, the Jack Dorsey-funded, invite-only Twitter clone, has been brimming with frenetic energy this week. Shitposters, sex workers, technologists, journalists, and whoever else have flooded the new service, all at once trying to reimagine Twitter from scratch. With a looseness not seen since Twitter’s early days, they’ve been tweeting (or actually “skeeting”) on the timeline (“skyline”) demonstrating this new app may indeed be the Twitter alternative some have been waiting for. The early excitement has turned it into the hottest tech app on the planet.
“This place feels like a class with a substitute teacher who is totally fucked,” wrote one user amid the chaos.
Bluesky’s fun, loose culture is emerging as its users rebuild their social graphs from scratch. With basically no cost to post into the void, a wide universe of weird and loose behavior has emerged. Jokes fly freely, nudes sometimes cross the “What’s hot” trending tab, and nothing is too serious. Without feeling like the world is watching, and without the pressure to perform in the ‘world’s town square,’ people are acting like themselves.
On Thursday, Bluesky crossed into the mainstream. New users doubled over the previous day. Bluesky trended on Twitter. Chrissy Teigen joined. The servers went offline (briefly) to handle the usage surge. By sunset, there seemed to be enough newsmakers, news gatherers, and amateur online comedians that it felt like this thing — unlike Mastodon, etc. — might actually have a chance.
Elon Musk’s struggles at Twitter are helping Bluesky along. In just a few months, he’s degraded the experience meaningfully. He has made Twitter’s ‘For You’ tab less relevant by leaning heavily on algorithmic recommendations. He’s diminished Twitter’s utility as a news app by removing verification from news sources. He’s alienated celebrities by forcing the blue check onto their profiles. And after his takeover, the app’s grown nastier. People are open to something new.
To work, Bluesky must avoid some of the pitfalls of its fellow Twitter challengers. Mastodon is confusing and frustrating to use. Substack Notes is tied too closely to its email newsletter experience. T2 — another Twitter clone — has rolled out invites a bit too slowly. To unseat an incumbent, any friction can be fatal.
Eventually, Bluesky will be distributed, meaning developers will be able to build their own apps and experiences on top of its protocol. But to start, the team behind it (wisely) created a centralized app to demonstrate its capabilities. As the underlying network infrastructure becomes available to the public, some cool products may follow.
You might, for instance, see a calendar app that lets you view skeets posted on certain days, a maps app that lets you view skeets from certain locations, or different clients with different moderation rules. You could see features built on some instances and then adopted by others. It’s also possible that this centralized version of Bluesky carries forward on momentum alone and no other clients take hold.
As Bluesky caught fire on Thursday, some users already mourned its small community dynamic. They pointed out that social apps tend to start like this — niche, wild, and fun — until the masses join and they’re eventually ruined. That’s what happened to Twitter, which transformed from something raw, and even somewhat magical, into a place where 100 million people yell at each other each day, or at least sign in to watch the yelling.
So while Bluesky may challenge Twitter, and perhaps replace it entirely, its success shouldn’t be measured in numbers alone. Instead of replicating Twitter one-for-one, simply building a challenger that’s big enough to be lively but small enough to disincentivize the toxicity would be a real accomplishment. It’s a lofty hope, and unlikely to materialize, but it’s the anticipation that makes the early days of a new social network so darn enjoyable.
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Profile of OpenAI’s Sam Altman [Insider]
AI is dangerous and must be shut down [Time]
Snapchat’s MyAI bot leads to plenty of 1-star reviews [TechCrunch]
Snap earnings were a disaster [CNBC]
Vice cancels ‘Vice News Tonight’ amid steep cuts [CNN]
Ben Smith’s Traffic book is out next week, it covers the history of BuzzFeed and Gawker [Washington Post]
German magazine fired an editor who ran an interview of AI posing as a racing star [New York Times]
Miller High Life confiscated because it’s not actually champagne [New York Times]
Meet Scott Galloway, Ice-T & Top Customer Experience Leaders at CONNECT Austin [CMS Wire] (sponsored)
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And hit that Like Button it’s kind of like it’s own niche, decentralized social network if you think about it.
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thanks for this lively writeup, I really enjoyed to read it!
I understood you are not sure that after it started like this — niche, wild, and fun — it might eventually be ruined as soon as the masses join.
Actually, I'm quite bullish that this won't happen, because I have read their ideas about content moderation. Did you see the CEO's blog post? https://blueskyweb.xyz/blog/4-13-2023-moderation
Basically works like this: If someone goes wild and creates hate speech (just for example), Bluesky will simply label it as such, using an algorithm that does text analysis. And now the magic happens: Every user can decide whether they want to see hate speech or not. In the options panel, there are switches called "hide", "warn" or "show".
For hate speech, for example, the default setting is "hide". As a user, you must explicitly switch this to "show" to be able to see hate speech.
So when the masses come in, hate speech, racism, etc. will simply not be heard. Haters, racists, etc. will post into the virtual void. Poof!
Cool, huh? I like that. 😄
I'm all for new social platforms but concerned about user engagement/retention (or lack thereof). Looking at you Post News/Mastodon.