Why the crazy last two weeks of Bluesky convinced me it’s a real challenger to Twitter

Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

Hi there, it’s Fortune tech reporter Kylie Robison.

You may have heard of Bluesky, a new invite-only social media app that’s getting a lot of buzz. Since its launch in beta in February, the app has already ballooned to 60,000 users, many of whom have decamped from Elon Musk’s Twitter.

When I was initially badgered by friends to join Bluesky, I was hesitant, having already been part of the earlier wave of Twitter users fleeing the Musk regime for Mastodon. While Mastodon hopes to be an alternative to Twitter, it hasn’t stuck widely outside of tech circles so far. And the idea of creating yet another profile and social network on Bluesky, only to eventually abandon it, wasn’t very appealing to me.

I eventually caved though, and did join Bluesky. And I’m here to explain why, in this case, the excitement is completely warranted.

Bluesky is a nine-person team, including its CEO Jay Graber. The entire team is extremely active on the platform, and not in the same way that Musk is. For instance, if you find a bug in the app or have a question about what a decentralized platform even is, they’ll respond to you within minutes. They engage heavily with the growing community, make jokes, and drop extra invites in people’s accounts if they post regularly.

It’s a world apart from Chief Twit’s antics of the past few months, which have ranged from labeling NPR as “government-funded media” to firing much of the staff that kept the platform operating smoothly.

Bluesky’s team is working on two pieces of tech at once: the user-facing app (which looks and feels very similar to Twitter) and an underlying protocol that would create an open-source framework for others to build social apps. They’re also speedrunning about a decade of social media history, only creating a “block” feature last week after “shitposters”—people who make mostly satirical and nonsensical posts—threatened journalist Matt Yglesias with hammers.

There’s some other programming notes I should fill you in on. The users call posts “skeets,” which is a portmanteau of “tweet” and “skyline,” the name of Bluesky’s feed (which the CEO hates). There’s a duck bot that can be summoned easily and has wreaked havoc. There’s a fake Pope Francis. I personally invited Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who wound up really loving the app and making some news of her own. There’s something called a “hellthread,” unfortunately also created by me, that broke the app and inducted me into the Know Your Meme hall of shame

At one point people posted so many naked pictures that they appeared in the “What’s Hot” feed that’s presented to people when they first join Bluesky, resulting in some politicians and celebrities seeing a few bare butts before the devs coded the butts out of existence (the team has made it clear they encourage nudity, just not at the jump of a user’s experience on the platform). There’s also a lot of naked Alf, an alien from a beloved 1980s sitcom, but I don’t think you need to know more, mostly because I’m already over my assigned word count.

You might be thinking, this sounds incredibly chaotic, like building a plane in mid-air—and you’d be right! Except the plane is filled with drunk people, some in fursuits, and others are CNN anchors, saying things like “I have information that will lead to the arrest of the creature known as Alf.” I’d say the chaos is a feature, not a bug.

If you were on Twitter in 2008, you deserve a senior citizen discount invite to Bluesky. Many users have compared the app to the early Twitter days when you just tweeted at your friends and updated the timeline with whatever food you were enjoying. The topics remained light, there were no “main characters” or “quote-tweet dunking” to be had. Similarly to Twitter’s heyday, there was even Bluesky meetups in San Francisco, New York, and Austin.

With all that being said, I promise you, it’s very fun and I think you should check it out. The underlying technology and rapidly growing community are a very promising start, but if you’re still skeptical like I once was, I completely understand. The leaps and bounds this company will need to make in the next year will test the limits of Bluesky’s popularity.

Moderation, decentralization, and onboarding 1.2 million waitlisted users are only a few of the immense stress tests the Bluesky team can look forward to. Fortunately for them, they’ve already created an extremely rabid fanbase who have been pushed to their limits on Twitter.

Bluesky has one chance to get it right, and here’s hoping they don’t go extinct like the Mastodons. One more thing, I appreciate you reading this far, so the first person to email me at this email address gets a Bluesky invite code. Ready, set, go!

More news below.

Kylie Robison

Data Sheet’s daily news section was written and curated by Andrea Guzman. 


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19 out of 22

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