Social media giant Twitter is shifting quickly since being purchased by billionaire Elon Musk last year. The company has retired legacy blue check marks showing verified accounts, and there’s a new subscription program.
So it’s natural that there’s a lot of interest in alternate social platforms. One of the latest, Bluesky Social, is earning some buzz and even celebrity cachet — but you might have to wait a while before you can try it out. Here’s a look at what you need to know.
What is Bluesky Social?
Simply put, it’s a social-media platform that shares enough similarities with Twitter that some people are viewing it as an alternative. There are others, including Mastodon, but according to The New York Times, users say Bluesky Social is the app that comes closest to mimicking Twitter.
The app is built on something called the Authenticated Transport protocol, or AT, a social media framework created by the company and made up of a network of many different sites.
And even though the name of the site doesn’t capitalize the S in “sky,” it’s pronounced “blue sky.” Don’t rhyme it with “brewski.”
Who’s behind it?
Here’s another Twitter connection. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is on the board of directors, and the Bluesky project began in 2019 when he was Twitter CEO. Jay Graber is the company’s CEO. The site introduced other staffers in a recent blog post.
How is it similar to Twitter?
Full disclosure: I’m still on the waiting list for a Bluesky Social invitation, so haven’t been able to try it yet. But screenshots on the Apple App Store show a vertically scrolling message site with small round photo avatars for users and icons under messages showing how many comments, likes and reposts they’ve received. Looks pretty similar to Twitter’s format.
Even the name is related. Dorsey confirmed a Bluesky Social user’s speculation that the name ties in to Twitter’s bird mascot, the idea being the bird could fly even more freely in an open blue sky.
And how is it different?
For one thing, you can set your domain as your handle, if you wish. This could help with verification, which became a heated issue for Twitter once Musk began removing blue check marks from verified accounts that refused to pay a monthly fee.
“For example, a newsroom like NPR could set their handle to be @npr.org,” the Bluesky Social company blog notes. “Then, any journalists that NPR wants to verify could use subdomains to set their handles to be @name.npr.org. Brand accounts could set their handle to be their domain as well.”
Moderation also looks to be different. Another blog post says that Bluesky is already using automated moderating, and is working on a system of community labeling, which is described as “something similar to shared mute/block lists.”
Users of many social-media platforms are shown posts from a feed selected for them by an algorithm, though users can influence that by following or blocking certain users. But Bluesky wants to give users a chance to pick from a variety of different algorithms to determine what they see. That’s still in the works, though.
You also can choose from different hosting providers, but there’s a default, Bluesky’s own system.
And it’s possible that creators who acquire a following on Bluesky Social might one day be able to keep connections with those who follow them, even if the service itself changes.
NBC News reporter Ben Collins tweeted that Bluesky Social “works and looks and feels just like (Twitter),” and praised the site’s “moderation, desktop experience and reliability.”
The site has a 4.2 out of 5 star rating on the Apple app store. “Feels like early Twitter days, but more organic,” wrote one reviewer.
Who’s using it?
Model and television personality Chrissy Teigen has shared her Bluesky Social account name on Twitter.
Singer Grimes (mother of two children with Twitter owner and CEO Elon Musk) is also on Bluesky Social, as is former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, according to The Washington Post.
How do I sign up?
For now, all you can do is add your email address to the Bluesky Social waiting list to receive an invite to try it out. The site is in beta, and is not letting everyone join yet. But if you know someone on Bluesky Social, you can ask them to be on the lookout for invite codes, and then beg them to send you one.
CEO Jay Graber says that the site will remain invite-only until it’s further along in development.