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IF Insights: With Bluesky and Nostr, decentralised social media protocol is here

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Despite Bluesky being an invitation-only app as of now, it won't prevent users from inviting others to join the social media network

Twitter’s much-coveted blue tick again hit headlines for the wrong reasons. The legacy accounts, which didn’t subscribe to the micro-blogging platform’s new ‘Twitter Blue’ subscription regime, lost their verification badges in April 2023.

Then, Musk took a U-turn and started reinstating blue ticks for some users, especially the ones with 1 million or more followers. However, noted personalities like Chrissy Teigen and Mark Hamill haven’t got back their blue ticks back till now, despite meeting the follower count criteria, while the accounts of deceased celebrities like Chadwick Boseman and Kobe Bryant are still online with the restored verification badges.

However, today’s IF Insight article is all about Bluesky, a social media app backed by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

What’s The News Now?

Bluesky has been launched for Android users. The project, which made its debut in 2019, works on an open social media protocol (an ecosystem which allows everyone to collaborate to create one social network that is decentralized, like email), and has been famous among Apple users as well, registering some 245,000 iPhone downloads. Bluesky got more traction in April 2023, the same month which also saw the confusion over Twitter Blue Tick reigning supreme.

As per Data.ai, Bluesky has now started inviting users from its waiting list, which numbered over a million people since October 2022, to test the app’s beta version.

Bluesky project leader Jay Graber has described the app as “a very simple microblogging format to show how Twitter could have been built” on its protocol. Its features are very similar to Twitter, with 300-character posts and replies, and the ability to repost and share photos and text. Although the app has a slow loading speed on its Android version, it offsets the drawback with a user onboarding feature much quicker and smoother than Mastodon, another free and open-source social media software.

Bluesky will allow its users to use their web domain address as their handle on the service, along with a self-verification option and the freedom to move to a different server/service with the same username, features which will clearly make the app an attractive destination for disenchanted Twitter users.

Jack Dorsey once commented that conventional social media platforms should not have so much power “in terms of deciding which users and communities could engage in speech and who would be responsible for moderating that content.”

It seems like Bluesky is going to follow this principle in the coming days.

Despite Bluesky being an invitation-only app as of now, it won’t prevent users from inviting others to join the social media network. Till last year, one had to get a code from one of the developers working on Bluesky, for the above purpose.

The app’s user base has accelerated from about 1,000 to 2,500 new members a day, ever since its Android launch, thus surpassing a total of 33,000 users in the third weekend of April 2023. Usernames can be tied to web domain names, and will serve as a verification form. Jay Graber’s username is @jay.bsky.team, and anyone linked to bsky.team can be considered an official member of the Bluesky team.

Bluesky has problems. One of them is that the tool doesn’t support hashtags. To address this, the portal is reportedly taking the help of noted American film personality and self-proclaimed hashtag inventor Chris Messina. Then there are concerns about Bluesky’s content moderation and safety policies as well, especially related to bots.

Nostr: Another Bet From Jack Dorsey

Like Bluesky, Nostr too works on a decentralised social media protocol, apart from sharing another similarity of being backed by Jack Dorsey.

Bluesky is a proof-of-concept front-end to the underlying Authenticated Transfer Protocol, which promotes social media decentralisation. The app is intended to form the basis of a broad network of interoperable apps and services. Nostr has become that framework under which over a dozen apps and other services already operate.

Nostr, whose acronym stands for “notes and other stuff transmitted by relays,” has an ecosystem based on public and private key cryptography, apart from carrying huge storage of technical knowledge. The app has been popular among technical communities, whereas Bluesky has earned a more diverse mix of users.

Nostr is much larger than Bluesky and the Authenticated Transfer Protocol, as it contains a variety of apps. It reportedly has as many as 16 million users, apart from 780,000 daily active users.

On Nostr, you have public keys interacting with the AT Protocol. While a user might have dozens or hundreds of such keys, an “Interaction Event” on the app can be anything from a posted message to a query, ping, or automated action.

Conclusion

Jack Dorsey launched Bluesky in November 2022, with the aim of “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”.

Things have changed since then. While Bluesky has its own fair share of issues, it has evolved like anything in the last six months and along with Nostr, looks poised to change the social media game with a decentralised protocol.

Bluesky started as a Twitter spinoff in 2019 and now is challenging the Elon Musk-led portal. The result of this warfare will decide whether the prospect of a federal social media network will be realised in the coming years or not.

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