What is BlueSky Social? Your essential guide to the invite-only Twitter alternative
What is BlueSky Social? Your essential guide to the invite-only Twitter alternative.
Image licensed via Adobe Stock
We explain how to get on board with the new Twitter alternative and why it might be worth it.
Thinking of leaving Twitter? You're not alone. Since Elon Musk, the billionaire previously known for running Tesla and Space X, took over the platform last year, he's made numerous changes that have upset people, most recently limiting the number of tweets you can view in a day. And so many creatives are moving away from Twitter right now. But where can you move to? Right now, many people are taking a punt on BlueSky instead.
BlueSky works much like Twitter but aims to give you more control over your data. That's good for privacy and security, means you're less likely to get banned or shadow-banned, and makes it easier to take your content with you if you leave the platform.
The service is still very much in the early testing phase. But it's already got a few celebrity users on its books, including film directors Edgar Wright, Duncan Jones and Christopher McQuarrie, model Chrissy Teigen, Eternals star Kumail Nanjiani, and American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We're on it too, by the way, at @creativeboom.bsky.social. (Don't worry, though: we don't plan to abandon our Twitter account for the foreseeable future.)
In this article, we'll explain how BlueSky came about, how to join it and how it works.
The origins of BlueSky
BlueSky originally started as an internal project at Twitter. It was the baby of Jack Dorsey, the original creator of Twitter and CEO of Twitter at the time. His vision for BlueSky was a ‘decentralised social network'.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, with a social network like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, all the content you upload is managed by one centralised company. That means they have ultimate control over your data.
This has obvious privacy issues. It also has legal and political implications because the government of the country on which the data is based can theoretically demand access to it. That's exactly why TikTok is being banned in an increasing number of places, from Montana in the US to the whole of India. Many people just don't trust the Chinese government. But is the US government, or any government, that trustworthy, either?
Being centralised also means that if the social network doesn't like what you say, do or post, they can delete your post or shadow-ban your content (which means it's still online, but few people will see it). Plus, ultimately, they can just ban you from the service entirely. Artist AdeY's Instagram account, for example, was deleted nine times in the space of 18 months, as he explains in this interview.
The idea of a decentralised network is that you can choose to have your data hosted on a different server than that owned by the social media company. This obviously gives you much more control over what happens to it. And it also means that even if the social media company closes down, either through bankruptcy or government action, you'll still have ownership of your data.
Although BlueSky was originally a Twitter project, it became its own independent company in 2022. The current CEO is Jay Graber, and Twitter no longer has any stake in it. Jack Dorsey is still on the board of BlueSky, having left Twitter on 29 November.
BlueSky is not the only decentralised network in town: there's also Mastadon, Steemit, Minds and Threads, which Facebook owners Meta are expected to launch this month. But we'll focus on BlueSky in this article.
How to join BlueSky
Fancy signing up to BlueSky and giving it a try? Unfortunately, it's not that easy yet. Because so many people are showing an interest, the company is trying not to expand too fast in case the system breaks down under the strain. So right now, the only way to join BlueSky is by joining the waiting list or getting an existing user to give you an invite.
It's important to note that each user only gets one invite every two weeks to hand out. So, unfortunately, we can't send you one ourselves. If you can't find anyone you know, you could always try the sub-Reddit Blueskyinvites, although as always on Reddit, it's wise to beware of scams and timewasters.
By the same token, if you do manage to join, don't expect everyone you used to interact with on Twitter to be there yet. As of 30 June, BlueSky had only 180,000 users, with a waitlist of over 1.9 million people.
That means it's currently a bit of a desert, full of tech folk who are angry at Twitter and, well, chatting about that a lot. You know, like when your friend has split up with their partner and says they want to move on but can't stop talking about them 24-7. And just as spurned lovers refer to “the ex”, on BlueSky people never say “Twitter” but call it “the bird app”.
We're not saying any of this to put you off from joining BlueSky. If you can be in at the start, it's a great time to get a feel for how the platform works and start building relationships. Just don't expect it to be an instant like-for-like from what you're used to on Twitter. For instance, if you were in during the early days of audio social platform Clubhouse in 2020 (shudder) – well, it's a bit more like that.
How it works
When you actually get to join BlueSky, how does it work? Well, it really does function quite a lot like Twitter. Your user profiles can have a header image, a profile picture, and a bio, and you can see how many followers you and other people have. You can post text and images; others can like them, comment on them, or repost them. Many have taken to calling posts ‘skeets' (a mashup of ‘sky' and ‘tweets', although this has an obscene double meaning in street slang, so take care how you use this term.)
Otherwise, this is a pretty stripped-down version of Twitter. So, for example, there's no direct messaging and video, either live or recorded. In that sense, it's more like Twitter when it first got big, which for many people will mean a welcome absence of content clutter.
So far, so familiar. But the big selling point of BlueSky is its decentralised nature… right? Well, absolutely. But in practice, that side of the platform has yet to be rolled out. Remember, we're still in a testing phase, so the BlueSky app is currently only compatible with the BlueSky testnet server.
In plain English, that means that you cannot change BlueSky servers. However, the BlueSky team has said they plan to add support for other servers in the future. And we trust that will happen because, well, otherwise, the whole thing will have been a gigantic waste of time!
If you do manage to join BlueSky, give us a follow at @creativeboom.bsky.social and let us know how you get on!