Last Month in Bluesky – Februari 2024

Welcome to the overview of all the news that has happened in the ATmosphere for February 2024. For those who don’t know me; I’m Laurens, and I write weekly updates about what happened in the fediverse. Last year I also started writing monthly updates summarising the news for Bluesky. I had to skip a few months due to time restrictions, but now I’m back with regular updates on Bluesky and the ATmosphere.

The main stories of this month is Bluesky dropping the invite code requirement, opening up the network for federation, and Bluesky’s appeal in Japan.

Bluesky opens up the ATmosphere

Bluesky has opened up the network for federation, allowing people to host their own data. This means that now anyone can set up their own Personal Data Server (PDS) and connect to the main network. Bluesky frames the opening of the network in the context of website hosting, making a direct comparison between how anyone can host a website on the internet. By hosting a website, you are in control of your data, and move to a different hosting provider without any noticeable change for the visitors. Bluesky says that they “think social media should work the same way”; by hosting your own PDS you are in control of your own data, able to move to a different host, without your followers noticing anything.

The update Bluesky released this week is an early version, which changes coming later, with Bluesky saying:
The version of federation that we’re releasing today is intended for self-hosters. There are some guardrails in place to ensure we can keep the network running smoothly for everyone in the ecosystem. After this initial phase, we’ll open up federation to people looking to run larger servers with many users. For a more technical overview of what we’re releasing today and how to participate, check out the developer blog.

In the announcement post, Bluesky also makes a comparison with Mastodon, and explains how some of the differences in the approaches: Bluesky focuses on a global conversation and a global network, which can be fine-tuned to individual preferences with composable feeds and composable moderation. This is in contrast with most fediverse implementations, where network view and moderation are dependent on the instance or server you are on. Bluesky also has full account portability, where you can keep your data and identity when you move to a different server. Over 260 people have since set up their own Personal Data Server.

Bluesky also crossed the 5 million account mark this week, gaining almost 2 million accounts in the last few weeks since the network dropped the invite code requirement. A significant part of this inflow comes from Japan, where Bluesky turns out to be hugely popular; Japanese is now the dominant language on the network. With this inflow the Bluesky network (colloquially also called the ATmosphere) has become more significantly active than the fediverse (~1.1M MAU); with close to double the amount of Monthly Active Users. A new website for reliable statistics on Bluesky recently started tracking data, but for the MAU to be a reliable number a few more weeks of datapoints are needed. The current Weekly Active Users for the Bluesky network is around 1M, and the MAU is around 1.9M.

Potential bridge between fediverse and Bluesky

Developer Ryan Barrett has been working on a bridging service between the fediverse (Mastodon and other platforms) and Bluesky. This month, he announced that the to-be-released project will be opt-out, meaning that people on either network that do not want to be able to be followed by people on the other network, will have to manually opt-out of the service. This lead to a backlash and drama on the fediverse, as there is a significant group of people that do not want their public posts to be visible on the Bluesky network. Some media covered it as drama between Mastodon and Bluesky, but it seems more accurate to say that Mastodon and the fediverse has been in conflict for a longer time with itself about network boundaries and consent, while the role of Bluesky in this all is more of a confused bystander.

In the media

As Bluesky opens up, the team has been more visible in the public. Bluesky CEO Jay Graber appeared on the Hard Fork podcast, as well as Chris Messina’s podcast. She also participated in a conversation with Mike Masnick and Yoel Roth, video replay here.

In an interview with The Verge, Jay Graber also talked a bit more about how Bluesky plans to make money:

While the AT Protocol is being opened up soon, the Bluesky company plans to make money via a variety of ways, including charging users for additional features in its app. It also plans to take a cut of purchases for things like custom feeds that developers will be able to charge for. Graber says work is also being done on a Cloudflare-like enterprise arm for helping others easily manage their own servers on the AT Protocol.

In another interview with Wired, Graber says that Bluesky ‘won’t enshittify the network with ads’.

In other news

Bluesky engineer Bryan Newbald held a technical talk on the technology behind AT Protocol that makes account portability possible: the decentralised identifier DID PLC. Newbald also goes into more detail on how Bluesky is thinking about governance for this decentralised identifier. You can watch the replay here.

Bluesky has hired a head of Trust & Safety, Aaron Rodericks. The community has voiced their demands for a head of Trust & Safety for a while. Rodericks has previously co-leading the Trust and Safety team at Twitter.

Bluesky App updates

Some major updates have launched on the official app for Bluesky: the latest update brought hashtags and the much-requested ability to mute certain words (or hashtags). Another update is that your Bluesky handle url is now a direct link to your profile as well.

Other app updates

  • deck.blue, a spiritual successor to TweetDeck, has added a Gallery mode.
  • iOS app Skeets has added the ability to edit posts. It is still an experimental feature as it depends on a workaround, the ability to edit posts is not officially yet part of the protocol. Skeets also added the ability to register and log in to a third party PDS.
  • Graysky added notifications, and feeds now respond to your content languages.
  • People have created over 40k custom feeds, the large majority (34k+) coming from third party feed generator skyfeed.

The links

That’s all, thanks for reading. You can follow me on Bluesky @laurenshof.online and @fediversereport.com, on the fediverse, or subscribe to my weekly newsletter:

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