I started this entire mini-blog thing because I wanted an outlet after no longer having Twitter to spam my thoughts onto. This week Bluesky finally, maybe almost too late (who can say as of right now), opened to the public. No more invite system, just pure unadulterated access for all to create an account and use.
A while back there were a number of microblogging-like prospects. Mastodon/Fediverse, Bluesky, Threads, Cohost…so many, and almost no one wanted to commit to a new site. So many people claim Twitter is their ride or die, but really I think for most people it’s just a waiting game for what the next “main” platform is. For me, I was smitten with my existing account on Mastodon because I liked how no matter what people chose, I’d likely be able to follow them (Misskey, another Mastodon instance, Threads, etc). Sadly since then, the overall vibe of the Fediverse has kind of soured for me due to the polarisation of unmoderated content, and overmoderated content.
Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc all have different uses but especially between Twitter and Facebook most people use both and accept they’re on both, maybe for different reasons. Since it’s just become the norm over the last decade to see primary platforms on all the things (your consoles let you connect to them, and maybe YouTube and Twitch), no one worried about having to make “yet another account” somewhere else. All your friends, celebrities, companies — everyone is on Twitter. They seemingly always were, and seemingly always would be.
With the tumbling down of Twitter the walls cracked and new alternatives became more clear. Threads launched, prematurely, with the negative association of Facebook and the complete lack of EU access. Contrary to most headlines and misquoted reports, Threads was and still is doing pretty decent. It was never going to take off though, not with the way the first few months went. I think if anything, Threads will have the most advantage when they connect to the Fediverse on a two way street. Massive bonus points if they connect to the AT Protocol (Bluesky) too for the truest connections across platforms. The upside is that in a perfect world, you would never need a Threads account to interact with a Threads user and see their posts on your timeline. No need to worry if Facebook is collecting data on you…if your posts are public, it’s public information anyway.
I think the Fediverse is the right idea, but the common person will never be able to grasp and fully enjoy using it. A centralised service goes a long way, and the cycle of living and dying for a service will just be the way the things churn. Then comes Bluesky, not using ActivityPub (Fediverse) and not promising connecting to other platforms itself (like Threads) but to counter the underlying protocol used by Fediverse sites. The AT Protocol may eventually let us all host our own “Bluesky” instances, but they beat Mastodon on a stable and prominent primary instance everyone has to use from the start.
That, to me, is a good thing. Threads exists to spur on anti-Twitter competitors, like Mastodon and Bluesky. Bluesky’s AT Protocol exists to spur on federation, like Mastodon/Misskey/Pixelfed/etc. Bluesky is a much easier pill to swallow. Much of the friction is removed that plagues ActivityPub services, and the site is extremely reminiscent of Twitter 1.0: you see what people you follow post by default, and that’s it unless you dig in more. It’s fantastic. The moderation features are a welcome bonus. The power is in the hands of the individual, there’s no reason for the service to have to outward ban others itself. You can chose to auto hide possible spam or scam accounts, make or subscribe to curated lists of groups of people most people don’t want to associate with, etc.
I was quite surprised to see not only a flood of new accounts gladly posting content and messages on Bluesky once it went public, but the resurgence of months older accounts coming back to say hi. Now could be the time for Bluesky to take the massive lead and become “the” new place to be. We’re currently in the Twitch vs Mixer position. A new competitor with potential and a few die hard users finally exists with easy access and easy use…but you can’t just go alone, you need the batches of communities you vibe with to make the move over as well. Mixer made the mistake of just buying one or two big names, and not buying communities, and hence had its downfall. Bluesky isn’t actively trying to do anything, but if enough people can convince their circles to make the leap it could go much farther.
A lot of people, especially creators, still see Bluesky as “another platform”. Very few see it as a new home and more so just another nuisance, like every other service I’ve mentioned prior. It’s not a new Twitter, it’s another painful service to manage. If enough groups of people jump to Bluesky, and consequently use it as their primary social media outlet…that could be the final push needed to really remove the stigma that Twitter is the only place to spend energy on. I’ve seen a few users who I’d never expected to make a Bluesky account actually make one and post something, so I have the slightest hope. A lot of users even spoke to how much better they like it, the vibe, the way it works. I think Twitter is almost like a “business requirement” for people that make a living online. Leaving that is too scary, too much of a risk, even if the audience is leaking out of the space month by month.
I said earlier that Bluesky may have gone public too late, but it’s also likely they went too soon. Too late because by now, people have either grown tired of the “oh new place, everyone go go” movements or have otherwise decided to use something else entirely, like Cohost. Cohost being so popular for a few people I know is intriguing. At this point it looks akin to Tumblr, how Bluesky looks akin to Twitter: a new site that operates like the old site we fells in love with. I never got into Tumblr, so Cohost never struck a cord with me, but the fact people have denounced using Bluesky in place of Cohost was a little shock. Not because of “how dare they” but more so that some people did choose a new site in the interim that wasn’t Twitter. A lot of people made a Bluesky account a year ago, and instead of continuing to use it instead started using Cohost continually to this day.
For now though, I have little hope that anything short of Twitter collapsing or eroding down to an unrecognisable state will fully drive a social media refresh. Bluesky is missing two key features that would sell remaining users: DMs and private posts. I like how on Bluesky you don’t need to make a “NSFW” account, you can just mark the posts and people can mute that kind of content if they don’t want it. It’d be nice if they would allow something akin to “Twitter Circles” so you don’t need a private or alt account only select people can access. One account, filterable how you and your followers want it. DMs is just a requirement for how some people use Twitter, so the sooner that arrives the sooner people can drop Twitter as a form of required contact (Bluesky is public now, after all).
So as it is, I’ll continue to avoid choosing a dedicated social media. I’ll give Bluesky a few weeks and keep checking in but I fully expect the status quo to return. Some circles may stick around longer this time, finding Bluesky really that much more enjoyable than anything else (now that everyone can be there) but until enough people really start seeing Bluesky or another service as “the new main place to be”, Twitter is just stuck as the jail people assume is where they must be. Even if that becomes more and more untrue by the week.
Bonus point: I also noticed while writing this that a lot of overseas users are confused on the moderation definitions, like what exactly “suggestive” means since it varies country to country. I hope everyone new can come to take the time to understand the rules, limitations, expectations, and future features to really give Bluesky the chance it deserves. Something will have to replace Twitter eventually, and the sooner we collectively pick one the less painful it’ll be later.