Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey has developed a new social media app that could eat at his former company’s market share.
On Bluesky, users can post short text or photo updates. While it has been in the works since 2019, Bluesky launched publicly in February 2023 and has gained traction in recent weeks as politicians, journalists and celebrities joined the site. Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, model Chrissy Teigen and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, are among those who have set up profiles.
Bluesky is one of a few companies Dorsey has his hands in. He left Twitter’s board of directors last year to focus on Block, the financial services company he co-founded in 2009 that powers Square, the payments platform for small businesses. Block also owns Cash App, the money transfer app; Afterpay, the buy-now-pay-later service; and Tidal, the music app formerly owned by rapper Jay-Z. Dorsey works as the chairman of Block and has a board seat at Square.
While Dorsey has experience in the social media business, he has spent recent years investing in financial services. Last year, Dorsey was the lead financier of a late-stage, $17 million investment in Movii, a digital banking company. Before that, he invested in Peek, a marketplace for buying experiences, and CoinList, a cryptocurrency exchange platform.
What is Bluesky?
Dorsey’s invite-only app allows users to post “skeets”—what users are calling posts—up to 300 characters, slightly more than the 280 allowed for the free version of Twitter under Elon Musk. It is unclear how many users are active and how long the waitlist is, but more than 375,000 people have downloaded Bluesky on Apple’s app store, according to NBC. Users can organize their feeds algorithmically or chronologically, depending on their preferences. The platform can host photos but not videos.
Bluesky is a decentralized platform, similar to Mastodon, which means user data is stored on independent servers rather than with one company. Decentralized networks intend to give users more control over their data. Users can communicate in different channels with different groups of people, and there is no one authority overseeing content moderation.
After Musk’s Twitter takeover, Mastodon gained a share of Twitter’s users. Its monthly active user count grew from 380,000 to 2.5 million in two months, but it isn’t retaining many of its new users, according to Wired. Other Twitter alternatives include Cohost, WikiTribune Social and Ello, but none have presented a serious threat to Twitter’s 368 million monthly active users.
While Dorsey was still running Twitter, he began creating the decentralized service, which can correct some of the issues Twitter had, especially with algorithms. “Density of info is something I think we got wrong at Twitter,” Dorsey said on Bluesky. “The greater the density, the more one relies on intuition to discover something you like and dig in. The less, the more we rely on ranking being correct.” Bluesky’s team is instead creating a “marketplace of algorithms,” where users can experiment with different recommendation engines and have greater control over the content they see, CEO Jay Graber wrote in a blog post.
Twitter funded Bluesky
When Dorsey was still in charge at Twitter, the company reportedly intended to integrate Bluesky’s decentralized protocol into Twitter, which would allow the platform to interact with other social networks. Bluesky became its own company operating separate of Twitter in 2021, using $13 million in funding provided by the social media platform. Bluesky doesn’t require a subscription and doesn’t have ads, so the funding is fueling Bluesky’s operations. It hasn’t yet raised another round.
Bluesky became its own company operating separately from Twitter in 2021, prior to Musk purchasing Twitter. Bluesky’s board includes Dorsey, Graber and Jeremie Miller, the inventor of XMPP, formerly known as Jabber, a decentralized instant messaging protocol.