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Jack Dorsey-backed Twitter alternative Bluesky hits the App Store

Bluesky, the Twitter alternative backed by Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, has hit the App Store and more testers are gaining access. Though the app is still only available as an invite-only beta, its App Store arrival signals that a public launch could be nearing.

We haven’t heard much from Bluesky since October 2022, when the team behind the project shared an update on the Bluesky blog, detailing the status of the social protocol that powers its new Twitter-like app, also called Bluesky.

AT (originally called ADX, or “Authenticated Transfer Protocol,”) is Bluesky’s main effort while the Bluesky mobile app serves to showcase the protocol in action. Similar to the ActivityPub protocol that powers Mastodon, AT offers the means of creating a federated and decentralized social network. However, there’s been some criticism of the project, notably from Mastodon and other developers, who pointed out that ActivityPub — a recommended W3C standard — already powers a large and growing “Fediverse” of interconnected servers.

And that Fediverse has been gaining traction following Musk’s Twitter acquisition, as users left the microblogging network to try the open source, decentralized alternative, Mastodon. The latter has also benefited from the work of former Twitter third-party app developers who have since rolled out polished Mastodon clients like Ivory and Mammoth, most recently.

Other companies have also committed to or at least discussed embracing the ActivityPub standard, including Flipboard, which announced its plans today, as well as Medium, Tumblr and possibly Flickr. Where that leaves Bluesky’s future is unclear.

The Bluesky project, now a public benefit company, had originally been incubated within Twitter starting in 2019 when Jack Dorsey served as CEO. Twitter also provided its financial backing for years. Though its founding was well ahead of the company’s sale to current owner Elon Musk, the two execs more recently had discussed the idea of an open source protocol over text messages ahead of Musk’s Twitter acquisition.

In texts, Dorsey explained to Musk that a “new platform is needed. It can’t be a company. This is why I left [Twitter].” (Dorsey exited the CEO role at the social network in November 2021 but remained on Twitter’s board through May 2022.)

Shortly after giving up his CEO duties, Dorsey took to Twitter to publicly talk about Bluesky, describing it as “an open decentralized standard for social media.” That discussion had taken place around the time when Dorsey was sharing his thoughts about Twitter’s decision to ban President Trump from its platform. Bluesky, he believed, would reduce the ability for large, centralized platforms — like Twitter — to 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.

But with Musk now at the helm of Twitter, it’s not clear if or how the two projects may remain intertwined. Bluesky last year said it had received $13 million to ensure it had the freedom and independence to get started on R&D and noted Jack Dorsey was on its board. It also said Twitter’s funding of Bluesky was “not subject to any conditions except one: that Bluesky was to research and develop technologies that enable open and decentralized public conversation.”

Today, however, Twitter has been drastically cutting its costs, including through layoffs, auctions, office closures and even not paying its bills. It would be surprising if a side project like Bluesky would remain a priority. TechCrunch

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