The Fediverse has exploded in discussion of Bluesky, now that it’s launched a beta and harvested a few celebrities. Quite a lot of Fediverse voices have been angry and hostile, pointing out that several years of intense effort have produced a working ActivityPub-based federated monopoly-resistant conversational social network, and asking who are these dweebs ignoring that work and re-inventing the wheel, probably in an attempt to enrich Jack Dorsey?!
I have a lot of sympathy with those opinions. Having said that, the assertions are not all fact-based. So, here are facts (and a few opinions) about Bluesky, as of late April 2023.
[If you disagree with any of my “Facts”, please send evidence and I’ll correct.]
Fact: Bluesky is run by its CEO, Jay Graber.
Opinion: Jay is a decent and smart person.
Fact: Bluesky is a Delaware Public Benefit Limited Liability Company.
Opinion: It’s not 100% clear what that means but you should research a bit before having opinions on the subject.
Fact: Bluesky may be looked up at the Delaware Division of Corporations by searching for “bluesky pbllc” — If you have a state-of-Delaware registry account and $20 you can find out more, but I don’t have such an account. If you do, please let me know what you find out.
Opinion: My impression, from what’s on the record and having been in the Bluesky conversation until mid-2022, is that it’s really wrong to say that Jack runs or controls Bluesky, or is even involved that much.
[Update: Well, mostly. There’s lots there if you go looking. Pieces are missing, but Bluesky is promising to fix that.]
Fact: Bluesky’s goals are said to include:
Selectable algorithms (including moderation), not necessarily per-instance.
Digital identity based on the Decentralized Identifiers (DID) spec, not tied to the instance you’re using.
Opinion: The DID standard is immensely complex and feels sort of ramshackle and not nearly prescriptive enough. I distrust some of the people who worked on it. But there are smart people who like it.
Fact: Things that Bluesky has not yet implemented:
Blocking. [Update: Fixed 2023/04/28].
Fact: Bluesky received $13M in funding sometime in 2022.
Opinion: That is not nearly enough to build an Internet-scale social media service.
Opinion: Bluesky might become VC-investable if they can exhibit insanely-fast MAU growth and the ability to attract and retain celebrities.
Opinion: If they did get VC investment they’d be dead to me (and probably pretty soon just dead).
Fact: When Bluesky was announced, Jack Dorsey said that Twitter would be a client for the protocol.
Opinion: This was the biggest reason why Bluesky was interesting.
Opinion: Jack don’t work there any more and I wouldn’t bet on Elon… well, I was going to say “following through” but then I can’t think of anything I would bet on Elon for, so let’s leave it there.
Question: Is Bluesky interesting? · Opinion: Not very, until they actually have Federation and selectable-algorithms in place and shown to work at scale, and be useful. And that, as an organization, they can be worked with.