The buzzy new social media app of the moment looks so much like Twitter it’s almost hard to distinguish the two. The profiles, timelines and colors are nearly identical. Even the creator is the same.
But under the hood, Bluesky, developed by Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, is vastly different.
The app, which launched in a closed beta on iOS in February and on Android this month, runs on a decentralized network which provides users with more control over how the service is run, data is stored, and content is moderated.
In recent days, it’s gained traction among journalists, politicians and celebrities, from Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to model Chrissy Teigan and the 90s band Eve 6.
Here’s what you should know:
What is Bluesky?
Bluesky calls itself “a new social network for microblogging.” With the app, users can post and follow short updates on a timeline, just as they would on Twitter, though with some differences. There are currently no hashtags – a central feature on Twitter – and no direct messages.
Bluesky was formed independently of Twitter while Dorsey was serving as CEO but it was funded by the company until it became an independent organization in February 2022. In a tweet introducing the idea in 2019, Dorsey said it also plans to “build an open community around it, inclusive of companies & organizations, researchers, civil society leaders,” but warned “this isn’t going to happen overnight.”
In a tweet last year, Dorsey said the “biggest issue and my biggest regret is that [Twitter] became a company.” He later clarified that if a service was a protocol it “can’t be owned by a state, or company.”
If the idea of a decentralized social network sounds familiar, it’s likely because of Mastodon, another Twitter alternative that also gained attention late last year.
Why are people joining it?
Like Mastodon, Bluesky appeals to a number of Twitter users who are frustrated with the direction of the platform under owner Elon Musk. In the six months since Musk took over Twitter, he has made a number of controversial changes to its features and policies, including the removal of blue check marks from prominent users.
Some of the same high-profile users now testing out Bluesky have also been openly critical of Musk’s moves at Twitter.
According to data.ai, the company formerly known as App Annie, Bluesky has been downloaded more than 375,000 times from the Apple App Store and the waitlist continues to be flooded with signup requests. On the Google Play Store, Bluesky is described as having been downloaded more than 100,000 times. (By comparison, Twitter reported having more than 200 million monetizable daily active users last year before Musk completed his acquisition.)
Bluesky did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It’s unclear if Bluesky has staying power or will lose steam as Mastodon did. But Mark Bartholomew, a professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law who writes about online privacy, said the early shift toward Bluesky is a positive one, as it gives social media users more choice over where they spend their time.
“Competition might actually help users find the product features they want, like greater privacy protection, portability, and more significant content moderation,” he said. “Social media platforms have features that users dislike but they still feel like they must accept them to just be in the online space where everyone else is.”
All it took, he said, was Musk taking steps “to sabotage his own platform.”
Can I sign up for an account?
For now, Bluesky is invite-only as it ramps up support for the implementation of its network. Existing users get one invite code to share with someone for every two weeks they’re on the app. Not surprisingly, the sense of exclusivity has only added to the excitement of joining Bluesky.
As Eve 6 wrote on Twitter: “Bluesky invite codes are the new blue check.”