Bluesky’s big move is letting developers under the hood

Bluesky is ditching invite codes, but what it’s about to let developers do could be more important for its future.

What happened: Social platform Bluesky is coming out of beta, opening registration to everyone. Later this month, it will also open up developer access to the AT Protocol that Bluesky runs on.

What it is: The AT Protocol is a version of a federation protocol, which is an underlying code that lets users access social media content and accounts on the app of their choice. The AT Protocol also lets developers build on top of Bluesky’s code to create customized experiences, or even entirely new apps.

  • This could be everything from allowing embedded videos to servers with their own moderation rules to feeds that show only pictures of moss.
  • The AT Protocol also lets users take their content and follower lists with them if they choose to leave — a key reason Bluesky built its own protocol instead of using ActivityPub, which is favoured by the likes of Mastodon and Threads.

Catch-up: Bluesky was announced in 2019 by then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as a project to develop an open, decentralized operating standard for social media. Later established as a separate company, the Bluesky social platform was essentially a bare-bones version of Twitter meant to test what is now known as the AT Protocol.

  • Dorsey intended to eventually move Twitter to the protocol, but after Elon Musk entered the picture in 2022, the two companies severed ties.
  • Bluesky has since grown to 3 million users, becoming one of the more popular “Twitter-like” platforms, though it is far behind Threads, which now has 130 million monthly active users.

Why it matters: Customization and choice could be a draw for users who are eager for a Twitter/X replacement but are wary of Meta-owned Threads. It could also attract developers with big ideas, taking some pressure off of Bluesky to develop new features itself.

  • Those features would be opt-in. Bluesky is positioning itself as a place of “algorithmic choice,” giving users more control than the automated feeds that frustrate users on other platforms.

Zoom out: Threads will roll out its own federated features with ActivityPub in the near future, meaning it might not just be competing with Bluesky for users, but over which social federation protocol becomes the industry standard.