After I had grumpily acknowledged about two weeks ago that Bluesky, not Mastodon, might be the platform to go after the destruction of Twitter, my timeline there has now matured into something really worthwhile. As I am a mostly passive user, the range and quality of my followings are way more important to me than the number of my followers. Every day I’ve been busy adding dozens of qualified accounts to follow, so that I’m now quickly approaching the number of 1.8k followings that I had on Twitter. There are already plenty of interesting people from science, politics and media on Bluesky, and I make effort to prioritize female voices to reduce the usual buddy bias.
It still bugs me a lot that this is another private US-based venture. I would have much preferred for my network to be genuinely non-profit, open-standard, decentralized like Mastodon, but the value lies mostly in the interesting people, and these now seem to gravitate toward Bluesky, even though it smells to me very much like another cryptoboy billionaire’s toy in the making.
The other area where Bluesky is subpar compared to Mastodon (let alone Twitter) is functionality. No hashtags, no bookmarks, no direct messages, no support for threads, the stupid length limitation to 300 characters – and the speed of development seems to be rather slow. But already there are people from the community delivering tools and workarounds, like blogging pioneer Dave Winer with his Thread Writer, or the brazilian programmer Gildásio Filho who is the brain behind the fast-developing Tweetdeck-clone deck.blue.
Another huge loss from Elon Musk’s wanton dismantling of Twitter is not yet and will probably never be mitigated: the possible use of the network as a real-time empirical access point to the global public spheres. This does not only affect the network’s value as a source of unmediated news. All the path-breaking work by scientists like Axel Bruns and Jean Burgess, who showed the scientific community how to use Twitter as an extremely powerful new tool to feel a society’s pulse – it’s all made obsolete by the Elmo idiot. I don’t know yet about the API policies of Bluesky, but it is also a question of scale, and I don’t think any of the recent Twitter successors will ever reach its level of global penetration.