Jack Dorsey–backed Bluesky was nurtured at Twitter. Now its ‘biggest single-day jump in new users’ could threaten Elon Musk’s bird app

A picture of Jack Dorsey
Jack Dorsey–backed Bluesky noted its biggest increase in user numbers on Thursday.
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Bluesky is in demand. 

From celebrities like Chrissy Teigen to politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, people are making their way to Twitter’s newest social media rival, and at a faster pace than ever before. The company said in a Thursday post on its own platform that it had experienced the “biggest single-day jump in new users” ever, noting a twofold increase in users compared with the day before. 

The surge in demand was so great that the service needed downtime to upgrade. The app is still only in its beta testing phase, and can only be downloaded with an invite from another user. Bluesky has been downloaded 375,000 times from the Apple app store worldwide since its launch in February, according to data.ai, a consumer data insights group. 

Part of what may be driving the frenzy surrounding Bluesky may be the sheer frustration of Twitter users. The app has had a number of outages in the recent months, and in April, Twitter took blue check marks from verified accounts in favor of its paid-subscription-only model. 

But Twitter’s fall from grace, and Bluesky’s rise in popularity, have more connections than one would think. The new, invite-only platform was actually funded by Twitter initially, the brainchild of cofounder Jack Dorsey, even before he became a vocal backer of Elon Musk’s Twitter purchase. And Musk reportedly ended the company’s ties with Bluesky when he took over Twitter. 

Representatives at Bluesky and Twitter did not immediately return Fortune’s request for comment. 

The tale of Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk

Dorsey has supported Musk’s bid to lead Twitter ever since the two began talking about it last year.  

After stepping down as CEO in November 2021, Dorsey remained on Twitter’s board until May of 2022. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO reportedly approached Dorsey in March of last year to discuss where the company was going. Twitter’s board approved Musk’s bid to purchase it in April, after which Dorsey publicly tweeted his praise for Musk, saying the Tesla chief was the right fit for his vision of Twitter.

“Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness,” Dorsey wrote in a tweet on April 25, 2022. He added that Musk’s goal of having a “maximally trusted and broadly inclusive” platform aligned with what then-CEO Parag Agrawal wanted to achieve at Twitter. Dorsey also lamented that Twitter had become commercialized. 

“Twitter as a company has always been my sole issue and my biggest regret,” Dorsey wrote in the same Twitter thread. “It has been owned by Wall Street and the ad model. Taking it back from Wall Street is the correct first step.”

In the following months, Musk’s Twitter bid was approved by the board, and after trying to back out of the deal, he went through with the $44 billion purchase last October. 

Within days of purchasing the company, Musk fired top executives including Agrawal, and then let go of half the employees. In response to that, Dorsey apologized for growing Twitter “too quickly” and took responsibility for the situation, suggesting that he acknowledged the need to cut the headcount at the company. Dorsey also continued to defend the sale to Musk as a “fresh reset” for Twitter.

But under Musk’s leadership, Twitter has been in a state of disarray. It has seen a rise in hate speech and instances of misuse of verified accounts by frauds. His latest move to roll out paid subscriptions for blue checks, which were previously attainable only when a person was verified by the company itself, has been quick to draw widespread criticism.

The verification system has also been arbitrary—sometimes giving blue badges to the accounts of dead people, and other times verifying the accounts of celebrities who never paid for the feature, including Stephen King and LeBron James. 

The real Twitter that Dorsey wanted

Even though Dorsey spent many years at Twitter and still has a small stake in the company, he said that it didn’t turn out as he intended. 

“The biggest issue and my biggest regret is that it [Twitter] became a company,” Dorsey tweeted in August, when asked by a user whether the platform had achieved what he had hoped for. What he had really envisioned was a social media service that was “open and verifiable,” where no one person or institution had complete ownership over the site.

Bluesky is more aligned with that vision, as it is a decentralized service in which user data is stored on independent servers instead of belonging to one company.

The project was first announced in 2019 as a research and development project within Twitter. Dorsey helped launch the project along with Agrawal, who briefly became Dorsey’s successor at Twitter. In 2022, Bluesky became its own entity, run as a public benefit LLC and had received funding of $13 million from Twitter as of April last year. Musk cut ties with Bluesky after his takeover, Forbes reported

“People have been saying for years that it would be great if users could own their data and their relationships; if we could have transparent algorithms and algorithmic choice; if there could be more accountability and user control over how social platforms are moderated,” Bluesky CEO Jay Graber wrote in a blog last month. “We’ve now designed and built a system that we think achieves the goals stated above.”

Bluesky launched on app stores in February and Android devices earlier this month. In an interview from April, tech publication The Verge asked Graber what Bluesky would do if its links start getting blocked by Musk on Twitter—just as he had done to links of another decentralized Twitter rival, Mastodon, a few months earlier. 

“As the owner of a centralized site, he is free to do that if he wants. But this is exactly why what we’re building is important,” Graber said.

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