The latest from Bluesky.
Bluesky Private Beta Update
March 2, 2023
by Jay Graber
When Bluesky started, we set out to build a protocol that would turn the fundamental functions of social media into basic infrastructure like the web itself. Last year we open sourced the AT protocol, a foundation for next generation social apps that can bring back the openness and creativity of the early web. It’s a few months* away from being ready to build on, but in the meantime, we’ve started inviting people from our waitlist to test out a beta app.
What’s this app all about? We expect the app to serve as a reference client for developers to learn how to build on atproto, as well as a landing place for users to see how a decentralized social app can be pleasant to use, customizable, performant, and safe. While we could’ve built the protocol in isolation, we knew we needed to work with real users to build pragmatic specs. We built an app to drive protocol development through product learnings, and chose a very simple microblogging format to show how Twitter could have been built on atproto (the AT protocol).
Our focus right now is on finishing atproto and surfacing its novel features in the app. Here’s what you can expect to see in the next few months:
- Domain names as usernames & account portability
- Composable moderation & reputation systems
- Algorithmic choice & custom feeds
We’ll write more about each of these features as they get introduced. The app is currently invite-only while we finish pieces that we believe to be critical — in particular the moderation system. We want to enable people to have a safe, enjoyable experience, so we’re regulating growth and building moderation tooling as a first-order feature and not as an afterthought.
We believe decentralization is a means to end. The end goal is to provide choice to users, freedom to developers, and control to creators. The AT Protocol is a fresh start for social because it creates a composable ecosystem where the convenience and scale of centralized services can be combined with the openness and resilience of decentralized protocols.
As a user, you can create an account and use our Bluesky app with few recognizable differences from using a centralized social app. However, if you decide you want to host your own server, or have a username that’s your personal website, you can also switch over to doing that. If you don’t like the way we show you posts or moderate your experience, you can switch services without losing your friends or data, or swap out your feed or moderators though a plugin ecosystem.
As a developer, you can freely build apps on atproto (AT Protocol) because open protocols are locked-open APIs. However, if you just want to introduce another way of showing people posts, or moderating content in the network, we are designing interfaces for you to plug in and do exactly that, accessible through our app. If you’re building a new social app, you’ll be able to tap into the social graph and interest graph of atproto users the way you are currently able to bootstrap off of a user’s phone contacts.
As a creator, you’ve probably invested a lot of time building an audience on social platforms, but you always want to keep an email list of subscribers because email is an open protocol that a platform can’t take away from you. The promise of building an audience on apps built on atproto is that long term, it should become a protocol like email that lets you keep direct connections with people regardless of how the services mediating that relationship change.
People have been saying for years that it would be great if users could own their data and their relationships; if we could have transparent algorithms and algorithmic choice; if there could be more accountability and user control over how social platforms are moderated. We’ve been wanting this for years too. We’ve now designed and built a system that we think achieves the goals stated above. We’re excited for the future of social we’re building towards, and hope you join us on this journey of bringing an open, self-governing ecosystem to life.
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