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It’s Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky vs Elon Musk’s Twitter: The social media war is on

IFM_Twitter Bluesky
Bluesky, originally created in 2019, had the goal of coming up with a decentralized protocol, which would operate in sync with Twitter and other social media networks

The latest Twitter exchanges between the social media platform’s new owner Elon Musk and its co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey saw a clash between the duos.

The Jack Dorsey-found platform saw the firing of nearly 50% of its 7500 staff globally after Elon Musk took over the reins. The Tesla CEO defended the move, saying that the company was losing over USD 4 million daily.

However, some of these employees were again called back to their offices, as the micro-blogging platform said these staffers were either fired by error or they are “way too essential” for the company’s transformation goals.

Now, amid all this chaos, Jack Dorsey launched his new social media platform called “Bluesky”, aimed at “giving the creators independence from platforms and developers, as well as the freedom to design, allowing users to customize their experience by giving them control over their algorithms”.

Although Bluesky is still in its nascent stages of development, it saw a spike in its subscription figures, as more than 30,000 people signed up there within 48 hours.

Jack Dorsey also hogged the limelight recently for his newly-launched business app “Square Financial Services”. And with Twitter coming under intense scrutiny over its policy changes, pundits will be keeping a sharp eye on Jack Dorsey’s upcoming moves.

Will Bluesky see Elon Elon Musk vs Jack Dorsey affair?
Apart from going into whiplash firing against Twitter employees, the Elon Elon Musk-led social media platform has come under media scrutiny due to its new subscription policy, dubbed as ‘Twitter Blue’, under which the users can sign up to the micro-blogging platform and get the much sought after ‘Blue Tick’ or the verification badge, in exchange of paying USD 7.99 per month. This feature was earlier available only to influential individuals (politicians, journalists, celebrities and sports persons), who were required to prove their identities while applying for the verification badge.

The policy change has fuelled worries over the rise of impersonation accounts (parody accounts) on Twitter, just ahead of the crucial US midterm elections. While actor Mark Ruffalo and activist-politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed Elon Musk on the micro-blogging platform, Jack Dorsey too opposed the Tesla CEO’s claims of making Twitter the “most accurate source of information about the world.” He also expressed his anger over Elon Musk renaming Birdwatch, Twitter’s initiative against disinformation, as Community Notes.

Bluesky, originally created in 2019, had the goal of coming up with a decentralized protocol, which would operate in sync with Twitter and other social media networks.

Even though Twitter has been rammed by one after another controversy after Elon Musk’s takeover, Bluesky remained confident about its future as it said, “Twitter’s funding of Bluesky is not subject to any conditions except one: that Bluesky is to research and develop technologies that enable open and decentralized public conversation.”

In April, it released the initial parts of its flagship ‘AT Protocol’, and the latest news suggests that it has also opened a waitlist for a decentralized social media app. Headed by software engineer Jay Graber. Bluesky has got USD 13 million funding from Twitter so far. Jack Dorsey and the inventor of XMPP protocol Jeremie Miller are on the project leadership team as well as the start-up to go for a private beta solution.

Recently, talking about its roadmap, the company said, “The next step is to start testing the protocol. Distributed protocol development is a tricky process. It requires coordination from many parties once a network is deployed.”

While Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk share a common goal in the form of decentralization, Bluesky caters to the concept of “algorithmic choice” or competing for social media moderation algorithms. As per an article from ‘The Verge’, Jack Dorsey, in a text message to the Tesla CEO, even regretted not creating a communication protocol on Twitter to ward off any censorship concerns.

Bluesky is aggressively working towards the concept of ‘federalized social media’, where algorithms will reign supreme, in terms of controlling the users’ data. The consumers will be able to use a single profile across several social media platforms. There were reports that stated that Jack Dorsey pitched the Bluesky-related ideas to Elon Musk at the beginning of 2022, apart from making Twitter an open-source protocol.

However, one must accept the fact that Bluesky is at the nascent stages, with Jack Dorsey holding the aces now. If Elon Musk remains true to the former Twitter CEO’s vision, Twitter will become the client service under Bluesky, with decentralization ruling the roost.

Elon Musk takes up ownership of a loss-making social media platform and despite having dreams of making it an open-source platform, he may have to concede the algorithm controls to Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky, which will affect the micro-blogging platform’s advertising revenue. Elon Musk has the vision of making Twitter a WeChat-like social media platform with payment facilities. Bluesky has an answer for it as well, but after the recent Elon Musk vs Jack Dorsey exchanges on Twitter, things may change in the coming days.

Elon Musk’s moves like firing Twitter employees en masse, and making some of the senior staffers work 12 hours daily a week, don’t match with Jack Dorsey’s corporate ethics either, as the tech billionaire’s other venture, Square earned the praise in 2020, when they let their employees do permanent work from home. Plus Twitter, under Jack Dorsey and his successor Parag Agarwal, was known for its open corporate culture.

Even if Elon Musk comes on board, big companies, which withdrew their advertisements from Twitter after the Tesla CEO’s takeover, may not fund Bluesky too, given the rise of hateful comments on the micro-blogging platform has been witnessing post takeover by Tesla CEO.

And yes, if there is a fallout between Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey, expect the latter to go alone and make Bluesky the next big thing on social media. Jack Dorsey’s track record as a tech entrepreneur gives him the edge here. Let’s discuss his rise from a teenage open-source software maker to a 45-year-old successful entrepreneur.

Tracing the early journeys of Jack Dorsey, the tech geek
The 45-year-old American internet entrepreneur and Philanthropist, showed his interest in tech at an age of 14, as he created a series of open-source software to aid the concept of dispatch logistics (logistics involving courier companies and cab aggregators). Some of it remained in use till 2007. When he dropped out of New York University in 1999, before completing his graduation, he came up with the idea of introducing a micro-blogging platform.

Jack Dorsey’s first business was that of a dispatching company based in Oakland, which used to handle things like couriers, taxis, and emergency services. The entire business used to be operated online in the year 2000 itself. In July of that year, he got inspired by entities like LiveJournal and AOL Instant Messenger and came up with the concept of creating an online short message communication service. He went to Odeo (a directory and search destination website in the early 2000s), which was also interested in evolving the text messaging format into a status-messaging one.

Jack Dorsey got a partner in the form of Biz Stone and together they came up with a Twitter prototype in the year 2000. It evoked interest from Odeo co-founder Evan Williams.

Evan Williams, Biz Stone and technology entrepreneur Noah Glass renamed Odeo to Obvious Corporation, and from there came Twitter, on 21st March, 2006. Jack Dorsey, apart from being the then-tech start-up’s CEO, also secured funding in two rounds.

Till 2008, Twitter wasn’t designed to generate revenues. In 2008, Jack Dorsey came up with a solution called ‘paid features’. And they say the rest is history with Twitter becoming a global phenomenon post-2009 with more and more people joining the microblogging site.

Jack Dorsey’s second innings as Twitter CEO
Jack Dorsey returned as Twitter CEO in 2015 after Dick Costolo, who replaced Evan Williams in 2011, relinquished his position. Jack Dorsey became the permanent CEO on October 5, 2015 and remained in the chair till 2021.

Under his watch, Twitter came up with innovations such as freeing up more of its space for photos and web links. However, Jack Dorsey’s second innings saw him getting more involved in US politics and activism.

Twitter also saw frequent falls in its stock prices in 2018. Not only it failed to fulfill its financial targets, but also led to a drop in revenue due to its decision over banning political advertisements during polls.

Flashback time: When Elon Musk bailed out Jack Dorsey
In 2020, activist hedge fund Elliot Management, led by billionaire Paul Singer, came up with a plan of upstaging Jack Dorsey and nominating four new directors to the Twitter board. Elon Musk, along with blockchain platform Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin countered the move. Paul Singer’s plans failed as Jack Dorsey remained Twitter CEO.

He handed over the reins to Parag Agarwal in 2021, as he got busy with his commitments with business portal Block. Inc, another success story that this article will discuss next.

Block’s impact on US economy
Block is known for developing Square, a financial services platform, helping small and medium-sized businesses to transition into point-of-sale systems such as credit card payments and tablet computers.

Jack Dorsey started this along with Jim McKelvey in May 2010. The idea came to his mind after McKelvey failed to complete a USD 2,000 sale of his glass faucets and fittings as he didn’t have a credit card-based PoS system.

Square basically works on a small, square-shaped mini card reader-like device attached to Apple gadgets and helps customers with credit card payments.

The company started with just 10 staffers in December 2009 and by June, 2011, the headcount went up to 100. Based in San Francisco, the business got valued at USD 3.2 billion by Business Insider magazine in 2012. In 2015, Square filed for an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). In 2020, the start-up was allowed to open a bank and other financial services. While the world came under a COVID onslaught that year, Square helped small and medium businesses to boom online. In December 2021, Square was renamed Block.Inc. It has multiple app-based products under its portfolio like Square Card Case or Square Wallet, Square Register, Square Market, Square Capital, and Square Payroll.

Square has been a huge hit in the United States, With Starbucks, and Amazon’s supermarket chain Whole Foods Market being its prominent customers.

Despite Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey sharing a common vision about Twitter and Bluesky, the Tesla CEO’s maverick actions in the last few days have made things difficult. If the micro-blogging site needs to challenge WeChat, it needs Bluesky’s help, whereas onboarding Elon Musk will prove to be a business risk for Jack Dorsey.

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