With X dipping, could Bluesky become the next Twitter?

21 Dec 2023

Image: © prima91/Stock.adobe.com

Bluesky has been in development for years, but recently hit the 2m user milestone and claims to have big features planned for 2024.

X – formerly known as Twitter – has had a turbulent year since Elon Musk took over the platform.

With a radical new style, a massively reduced workforce and many controversial moments from Musk, the platform has still managed to retain a steady userbase. But there is evidence that its userbase is declining.

A report by The Information a couple of months ago claimed X daily active users dropped by nearly 4pc since Musk took over the platform. This report also claimed X’s advertising revenue dropped by 60pc – an issue X has been struggling with all year.

Since Musk’s takeover, various other platforms have gained attention as alternative social media sites, such as Mastodon, Threads and Bluesky, which was created by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

Bluesky has had a slow rise – it is currently only available through invite codes – but it appears to be gaining more momentum in recent months. The platform recently passed the 2m user milestone, a year after the first Bluesky post was created.

What is Bluesky?

Bluesky is a social media app that aims to become a massive, decentralised platform. It is currently in the process of making the decentralised aspect a reality.

The site was announced in 2019 as a Twitter-funded project that aimed to create an “open and decentralised standard for social media”. Decentralisation is a boon for sites like Mastodon, which runs many smaller servers as a counter to the massive, centralised social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Bluesky recently said it plans to launch its Federation feature next year to make the site “billionaire-proof”.

“You’ll always have the freedom to choose (and to exit) instead of being held to the whims of private companies or black box algorithms,” Bluesky said in a blogpost. “And wherever you go, your friends and relationships will be there too.”

The site also revealed plans to launch a public web interface to let people view Bluesky posts without being logged in. The platform recently announced that it will let users opt out of this feature if they want their posts to remain private, in response to public backlash.

What does Bluesky look like?

The app currently shares a lot of similarities with Twitter – before it became X – in terms of both design and function. Users have a profile that shows their number of followers, the accounts they are following and the various posts they have created.

Users can look at a home page that shows posts from accounts they are following or discover popular posts in various categories. Users can also search for certain hashtags to find posts about specific topics.

Bluesky advertises itself as a “flexible” platform, giving users the option to moderate their algorithms and filter specific content or mute accounts – to hide posts from them.

The simple blue and white design is similar to how Twitter looked in earlier years, which could help it grow into a site for consumers that preferred that platform before the recent changes to X.

Meanwhile, more news organisations and political figures are joining Bluesky. In October, EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton revealed that he had set up a Bluesky account.

Issues for X

The recent user milestone for Bluesky comes amid a difficult time for X, as multiple brands including IBM and Disney cut their advertising on the platform. Meanwhile, Musk recently allowed controversial conspiracy theorist Alex Jones back on the platform, after being suspended in 2018.

The site is also being investigated by the European Commission, to assess whether the platform has violated the terms of the Digital Services Act.

Earlier this year, Breton publicly shared a letter he sent to X owner Elon Musk over claims that the site is being used to “disseminate illegal content and disinformation”.

“We have, from qualified sources, reports about potentially illegal content circulating on your service [X] despite flags from relevant authorities,” Breton said in the letter after various claims that graphic and misleading content is circulating on the site.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic