Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, is supporting Bluesky, a decentralized communications app that has emerged as a rival to Twitter. Unlike Twitter, Bluesky does not have a single owner or leader and is not driven by commercial or financial interests, making it less prone to censorship and data collection. In April, Bluesky had 628,000 mobile downloads, representing a 606% increase from the previous month when it became available on Android in addition to iOS.
Comparatively, Twitter had 14.9 million app downloads in April, a 2% increase from the previous month. With around 50,000 users, it remains unclear how Bluesky and other decentralized platforms will generate revenue. The team behind Bluesky has not yet disclosed its financial plans, but subscriptions are one possibility.
Bluesky, which is currently invitation-only, demonstrates how Dorsey is actively seeking to disrupt the industry he helped create. Dorsey, who remains the CEO of payments platform Block (formerly called Square), is now going head-to-head with Elon Musk with two Twitter alternatives.
Decentralized projects like Bluesky are touted as being less likely to collect and sell users’ data, but their main drawback is scale. The front-end apps built atop these decentralized platforms are often clunky and less user-friendly.
Bluesky was initially incubated within Twitter back in 2019 when Dorsey was still CEO. The app operates on a decentralized networking technology called the AT Protocol, which in theory could power future social apps, enabling users to maintain their identities across multiple platforms.
In February 2022, members of the Bluesky project created the Bluesky Public Benefit LLC, with Jay Graber as CEO and Dorsey as one of the founding board members. In April 2022, the company announced on Twitter that it had secured $13 million in funding “to ensure we have the freedom and independence to get started on R&D.”
The move from centralized platforms with a polished user experience to decentralized platforms that are more difficult to use is driven by a desire for self-governance. Other decentralized social projects that have been gaining attention include Mastodon, as well as Lens and Farcaster, which are both Twitter substitutes built on blockchains. They don’t sell ads or collect and sell user data, which are the traditional ways that social networks generate revenue.