BlueSky entices 65 000 users before launch

Lungile Msomi
By Lungile Msomi, ITWeb journalist
Johannesburg, 15 May 2023

BlueSky, the new decentralised social media platform under the ownership of former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, has hit the 65 000-user mark despite not yet being released to the public.

The platform was originally created under the Twitter umbrella and became independent after tech billionaire Elon Musk bought the social network for $44 billion last year.

Access to the platform has been limited to invitations, with invite codes available for beta testers only. The codes have been in such high demand that some are being sold on websites like eBay for over R3 000.

The app has reached over 300 000 downloads and is quickly becoming one of the most popular social media apps on the Play Store. The social network is expected to be launched later this year.

“BlueSky has become popular due to its association with Dorsey, who has a reputation as a visionary in the tech industry,” says Brent Janse Van Vuuren, MD of Social Media 101.

BlueSky is a text-based decentralised social media service that aims to move away from the centralised platform template used by most social media platforms, including Twitter. The decentralisation means the platform’s priority is transparency and user control over content moderation.

“This means that in theory, users have more control over their data and privacy, and this could make it more resistant to censorship and other forms of control, as there is no central authority governing the platform. Twitter, on the other hand, is a centralised platform that is governed by a single company,” says Janse Van Vuuren.

Features added in the latest BlueSky update include content moderation settings that can be synced between devices, and links to posts and profiles opening in the app instead of the browser. As e-mail has been added to the settings so users can see what they signed up for.

The app looks and feels a lot like Twitter, with a tab for pages and people the user follows and a “what’s hot” tab similar to Twitter’s “for you” tab.

However, there are also differences to Twitter, such as showing posts in chronological order, instead of suggested feeds as Twitter’s new timeline has done in recent updates.

In its current stage, BlueSky lacks many features available on Twitter; for example, there is no private messaging function yet and the ability to share media such as video will only be available once the platform is launched later this year.

Despite its infancy, BlueSky is gaining traction and the number of users is expected to grow.

While many people just want to jump onto the “new”, some prefer to switch to a platform that protects their privacy and data.

Janse Van Vuuren comments: “This approach could be beneficial in reducing censorship and promoting free speech, but it could also lead to the spread of harmful content if not implemented carefully. According to BlueSky's website, its approach to moderation is three-fold: automated filtering, manual admin actions and community labelling.”

He adds it is yet to be seen if BlueSky can compete with Twitter, but it’s creating a buzz.

“As a social media agency owner, it is important for me to stay up to date with the latest developments when it comes to social media platforms. I will be monitoring the development of BlueSky and evaluating its potential for myself and our clients.”

In the latest development at Twitter, Musk last week appointed Linda Yaccarino as the new CEO of Twitter and X Corp. Yaccarino has a background in advertising and serves as chairman of global advertising at NBCU.

Musk said in a tweet that Yaccarino will focus mostly on business operations, while he concentrates on product design and technology.