Is BlueSky a threat to the Fediverse?

Posted: 2023-05-01 10:24:58 |
Last update: 2023-05-01 10:24:58

What is BlueSky?

BlueSky is an initiative to create a new standard for federated social media, incompatible with ActivityPub which powers the Fediverse. It was created within Twitter, but is operating as a more or less independent entity, not directly under Elon Musk's control.

They've just launched their Android app, which gave the project quite a bit of renewed publicity and got multiple people I somewhat know to switch there from Fedi.
At the moment from what I can gather there only is a single "flagship" instance, which is invite only, so actual decentralisation is far ways off.

Why are people switching?

I've read some articles and farewell posts where people explain what they felt BlueSky is giving them that the Fediverse cannot.
The largest things I have seen so far are discoverability and account migration between instances. The latter of which not really being a thing yet.

Discoverability is one of the things where the Fediverse is on the weaker side. This makes joining a lot more difficult as your timeline is likely to be pretty empty at the start before you figure out who to follow. There's no algorithm that dictates which posts are considered "hot" or "trending".
While the lack of discoverability is making it more difficult for new people to join Fedi (I even wrote a blog post trying to help people to find their footing) I actually believe it is a somewhat good thing.
There is a very freeing feeling of being able to write whatever I want about topics I care about without being found by hate groups who reply with my home address and threats to my life.
These groups exist in the Fediverse but they are very unlikely to ever come across me. Partly because I ban a lot of instances and partly because posts just do not travel that far.

BlueSky does have an algorithmic timeline as well as trending posts and since right now everyone is on the same instance, there's roughly 0 chance of someone you want to follow being on an instance yours does not know about.

BlueSky has also attracted a lot of celebrities, tech writers and politicians. Brands will likely soon follow once they get invites.
That is a crowd who does not always feel welcome on the Fediverse but who many people absolutely want to follow.
I don't think that Fedi will ever attract this demographic and I do not think it should.
It is perfectly fine that there is a different platform for them and it gets bonus points for apparently not being an absolute cesspool of hate like Twitter is these days (and has been way before Musk bought it.)

So why do I think this is not an issue for the Fediverse?

While Mastodon may be a gGmbH (a limited non profit company), you have to understand that the Fediverse is not run by a single entity and almost nobody there has a profit motive.
Most instances are run by people like me: Nerds who run services for the fun of it and in hopes that they will be useful to someone.
We don't have to be the most popular or successful to continue doing what we do and there is no investors telling us to stop doing unprofitable things.
Everything I host is at a pretty large financial loss, but that's okay because it's a hobby and not what pays my bills.

The larger issue might be that we lose some interesting people we would like to talk to.
Especially since BlueSky does seem more accessible to newcomers than Mastodon or GoToSocial are, this will sadly happen.
However, I believe that most people who are attracted to BlueSky will not actually be missed in the Fediverse.
After Musk bought Twitter and made it even worse than it was before, a ton of people flocked to Mastodon in hopes of continuing doing the same things they were doing before.
They wanted a Twitter away from Twitter rather than a new community whose culture and norms they would have to get used to.
Many of them never started writing image descriptions or CNing their posts and they don't use the platform how it was being used before.

I use Fedi in hopes of forging actual social connections with people I can see eye to eye with. I don't want to use it to scream at celebrities or read some politician's agenda for the next electoral period.
I may not be too great at making friends online, but it has happened before and has enriched my life a whole lot.

Wanting to read about the newest tech products, movie projects and screaming at brands publicly because that is way faster than contacting them through their support systems is a valid wish.
It is not one that the Fediverse is there to fulfill however.
I sincerely hope that the people who joined Fedi to simply replace Twitter will get what they want from BlueSky. I might even make an account at some point to yell at brands for customer service as well.
But for me, I will stick with my cosy little gay group of friends who tell each other weird jokes using janky software that is made by nerds like me.