Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey wants to change how social networks operate and interact with one another. On Monday, his nebulous effort to make that happen took a small step forward.
Twitter said that Bluesky, the open-source project the company first announced in 2019 to build a “decentralized standard for social media,” will be led by Jay Graber, a startup founder and cryptocurrency developer. Bluesky will be funded by Twitter but operate independently. At a Bitcoin conference in late July, Dorsey said that Bluesky was his “biggest focus right now.”
“I’m excited to take on this role and build the future of social media,” Graber said in a statement. She previously wrote an “ecosystem review,” shared by Bluesky in January, looking at similar technologies already in existence. “I look forward to partnering closely with Twitter as well as other companies as we embark on this journey — it won’t happen overnight, but we’ll share our progress along the way.”
While there are many ways that Bluesky could unfold, Dorsey’s vision is to create a technology that will allow more people to build social media services and features around the same collection of user posts. If Twitter ends up adopting this system, called a protocol, then the millions of tweets sent every day could be viewed through Twitter’s existing app and through other interfaces created by developers using the protocol.
Similarly, Twitter could show content that was originally shared on a different network, so long as that network is also using the protocol. Dorsey has argued that such a protocol would enhance the “public conversation” online, since it would mean posts are no longer constrained to the network on which they are shared.
Proponents of the strategy also say it would have an immense impact on content moderation, enabling different organizations to create their own rules and algorithms. A post that might violate Twitter’s rules, and thus be removed, could be visible on another service using the same protocol but with more lenient content standards.
“In such a world, we can let a million content moderation systems approach the same general corpus of content — each taking an entirely different approach — and see which ones work best,” Mike Masnick, author of the blog Techdirt, said in a post pushing for this type of change in 2019. “If people feel that one such interface or filter provider is not doing a good job, they can move to another one or tweak the settings themselves.”
Dorsey has said that he is uncomfortable with Twitter’s power to police user posts and is typically in favor of leaving up as much content as possible. But Dorsey also told a congressional committee in March that policing content is a business decision.
Bluesky is in its infancy, and it’s still unclear how it will develop, or even whether Twitter will use the technology that the project creates.
It’s also not known whether other companies will choose to use this open protocol. Email services already use a protocol that lets people send and read messages from various user interfaces. But most social media companies, Twitter included, currently keep all user posts contained within their own platform.
That approach helps them protect data and gives people a reason to open the app. It’s possible that if a well-known service like Twitter uses the technology, others could follow, though it’s unclear whether a competitor, like Facebook Inc., would join.