Bluesky, the project started within Twitter to create a decentralized social network, announced it’s getting closer to actually shipping an app. “Closer” is the operative word here, though. Bluesky only announced that it is building an app, that it’ll be called Bluesky, and that it will “be a portal to the world of possibility on top of the AT Protocol.” We still don’t have a release date, a feature list, or much of anything else.
The AT Protocol is the real news for Bluesky. The whole idea behind the project was to separate social apps and social networks — to let people use the same back end and data but build and use their own apps on top of it. “It will allow [Twitter] to access and contribute to a much larger corpus of public conversation, focus our efforts on building open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation, and will force us to be far more innovative than in the past,” Twitter’s then-CEO Jack Dorsey said in 2019 when Bluesky was first announced. The AT Protocol, it appears, will be the underlying technology that powers all these apps in the future.
The AT Protocol website is still fairly sparse, but it offers three reasons the decentralized future of social might be the right one: “federated social,” which allows users to use many apps on top of one service; “algorithmic choice,” which lets them decide how that information is presented; and “portable accounts,” meaning you could move your stuff from one app to another without losing your content or social graph. Bluesky’s blog post also mentioned performance as a possible future upside, saying, “We’ve made it a priority to build for fast loading at large scales.”
Until now, Bluesky has done a lot of research and tinkering, releasing white papers and GitHub repositories, but now, Bluesky says it’s eager to start testing the protocol for real. It’s also opening up a private beta for developers who want to work on the project going forward.
Don’t hold your breath for the app and protocol to hit your social sphere, though. Bluesky continues to move fairly slowly and is trying to do its work publicly. As Dorsey said when the project launched, “The work must be done transparently in the open, not owned by any single private corporation, furthering the open & decentralized principles of the internet.”
Bluesky’s far from the only project doing this sort of work, too. Mastodon is probably the best-known option at the moment and has expressed some frustration that Bluesky chose to go its own way. There’s been a bit of a fight about DeSocial in Dorsey’s mentions since this most recent announcement, too, and Bluesky has looked into building with underlying tech from Matrix, XMPP, Solid, and other companies as well.
Part of the appeal for Bluesky was Twitter’s buy-in — that it might quickly get a big and credible service running on the nascent network. With Elon Musk potentially owning the company soon, it’s hard to know how that will shake out. But Bluesky’s still pushing along slowly but surely toward the future it imagines.