Several moments in Elon Musk's chaotic takeover of Twitter, now X, have led people to leave the platform, but so far there's been no clear contender as the 'new Twitter'. Some people love Mastodon, but it hasn't reached mass appeal. Instagram's Threads had an initial surge in sign-ups, but actual use has been less dramatic.
But could the real X contender be a platform backed by one of the founders of Twitter itself? We've seen a recent spate of artists saying that they're leaving X for BlueSky, swapping 'tweeting' for 'skeeting', due to Musk's AI plans (see our pick of the best Twitter alternatives for other options).
Okay that's it I'm out of here, I'm deleting my art and I'm gone. By folks it's been realAugust 1, 2023
For those leaving X, the final straw came at different moments. Some left as soon as Musk took over and said he would enforce less moderation against hate speech. For some, it was when Musk fired most of Twitter's staff and introduced a subscription model for blue ticks. More still said enough was enough amid Twitter's rebrand as X last week. But the latest controversy is the news that Musk's new company, xAI, will scrape content from the platform to train its AI model.
Musk has said that xAI will scrape public Twitter content in the same way that "Every organization doing AI, large and small, has used Twitter’s data for training, basically in all cases illegally." That's enough to make many artists jump ship.
After Mastodon and Threads, now BlueSky Social is emerging as a possible alternative, and it's one with more of a focus on ethical and data issues. There's currently a waiting list to join, and the platform says it's seen a surge in registration requests in recent weeks. But increasingly, artists have been joining the growing ranks of journalists, internet celebs and tech experts on the platform.
Users can post text and images to a main feed (people call it 'skeeting', apparently to the annoyance of the company's CEO), and they can follow other users and repost. Basically, it sounds very much like Twitter (or X) without direct messaging and with a more serious approach to moderation than that taken by Musk. Feeds can also be customised, and, crucially, the decentralised approach allows users to store their data on servers of their choosing.
What is BlueSky Social?
BlueSky began as part of Twitter back in 2019. It was spun off and hired its own staff in 2021. Former Twitter software engineer Jay Graber isCEO and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is on the board of directors.
BlueSky's aim is to create a decentralized social network protocol that could be used by multiple social networks, including its own, BlueSky Social. Each network would have its own systems for curation and moderation but would be able to interact with other social networks through an open standard.
The main difference with the decentralised approach is that user data can be stored on independent servers instead of the company's. In the future, users will be able to develop their own servers to use with communities of their choosing.
Accessible via browser or an app for iOS and Android, BlueSky Social is currently in an invite-only beta with a waiting list, but the company says it plans to open it to the general public once it's confident about its system of moderation. Its source code has been made open source under the MIT licence.