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Twitter-backed BlueSky releases code to build open social media standards

Twitter-backed BlueSky releases code to build open social media standards
5 May, 2022
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Less than a month after billionaire Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, a little-known company called Bluesky has released code meant to create a decentralized social media standard.

The significance of Bluesky is in the fact that it was backed by Twitter itself, when it was led by founder Jack Dorsey, back in 2019. Dorsey remains on the company’s board till date. Bluesky had earlier clarified that Musk’s buyout of Twitter didn’t impact the company’s operations, which remains independent of the platform.

Dorsey first backed the platform in 2019, and it has since hired noted crypto developer Jay Graber as its chief executive. “Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard,” Dorsey said in December 2019.

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The Twitter founder has also mentioned Bluesky when discussing former US-President Donald Trump’s ouster from the platform. “Our goal is to be a client of that standard for the public conversation layer of the internet. We call it BlueSky,” Dorsey said on the Twitter.

What is Bluesky?

In short, Bluesky’s goal is to create an open standard, which anyone can use to create their own social media. The idea, like most decentralized projects, is to hand over control of a network to users, similar to Mastodon, which gained prominence in India in 2019 when Twitter was clashing with the Indian government. 

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Yesterday, the company released a Github repository called Authenticated Data Experiment (ADX), which the company warns is an early glimpse at its code. In a blog post, Graber insisted that developers shouldn’t use the code to “build your next big social app” just yet.

Like Mastodon, which lets users create their own Twitter-like platforms with their own rules, ADX is eventually expected to do the same. The protocol allows developers to build a user controlled “personal data repositories” and transfer posts and content from one platform to the next. 

In theory, a central standard like this should, in the long run, allow users to move across platforms and carry their posts and content with them. Experts have noted that Elon Musk’s promise of open sourcing Twitter’s recommendation algorithms could also help build such standards in the long run.

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Also read: Four key changes expected as Elon Musk takes over Twitter

“On the Web, this data lives on the social platform where it was created. In ADX, this data will live in Personal Data Repositories owned by the user,” Graber said in his post. He also said that the company will continue “working in public”, which means that it will continue adding more of its code to the public repositories while developers, too, continue to work on them.

“We’re in R&D mode at the moment, experimenting with pieces that point in the right direction. We don’t have a finished product or a fully-specified protocol, but we’re putting together components that we believe will enable a social media ecosystem with a healthier balance of power. This isn’t a complete picture yet, and doesn’t lay out how we’ll be getting from here to there. These are the first steps — there’s still a lot more to do,” he said.

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