BlogWhat is Bluesky?

What is Bluesky?

June 13, 2023

by Rose Wang

Cubes stacked on top of each other

Bluesky: A Short Overview

Our digital lives are fragmented — we all maintain profiles across multiple social sites. If you move from one site to another, you have to start over with no history of the friends or content you created there. This is because the original web protocol made it easy to link websites, but had no built-in way to link people and their content, making it hard for people to maintain control over their online identities.

When a centralized platform owns your online identity and is the only host of your content, you’re vulnerable to getting cut off without warning. It’d be like if the city you lived in one day decided to kick you out, and there was no way to move your stuff to a new city and keep in touch with your friends. An analogy for what Bluesky is building is an identity and transport system between cities, so you can move from one place to another and keep your friends.

Bluesky’s goal is to rebuild social so that:

  • Users own their data and can take it anywhere they want to go.
  • Developers will never get locked out of the ecosystems they help build.
  • Creators will always own their relationships with their audience.

To achieve these goals, Bluesky has developed a social protocol — in other words, we designed a new approach to storing and retrieving information about people in a social network. This is where the “decentralization” part of Bluesky comes in. A protocol is a set of instructions for computers to talk to each other. It creates a set of rules for how your data can move across different services, even ones not run by us. This open protocol is why most data – your posts, follows, likes, and blocks – is public on Bluesky right now. Making a post on Bluesky is like making a blog post you publish to the web. The underlying protocol for Bluesky is ATP, much like the underlying protocol for the web is HTTP. Our goal was to make social media work more like the open systems that defined the early web, like blogs and email.

A Network of Cities

ATP, or the Authenticated Transfer Protocol, is a federated social protocol. Here’s an analogy using cities in the real world to describe federation online: Centralized social platforms are like one big city that everyone lives in, and federated protocols are like a network of cities, of all different sizes. In the federated network, people can move between cities depending on what kind of community they’d like to be in. The Bluesky social app we’re running right now is just one city in a network that will grow over time. The AT Protocol gives you a passport (identity) to travel with, and lets you take all of your belongings (data) with you, enabling an eventual network of cities to interoperate. When we launch federation, more cities (servers) will pop up.

Just as different cities can have different laws and cultures, different parts of a federated network can be governed differently. Systems like composable community moderation can help create a system for governing the different “cities” in the network. In the future, we hope to see many new and different kinds of cities (i.e. other social apps like dating apps or video feeds) get built by users and developers, as well as the bridges and tunnels that connect these cities. With your Bluesky passport, you can travel freely between digital spaces, with the tools to create your own or to curate your experience at home. We believe that the future of social media is co-created and open. Join us!

This blog post is written for a general audience. For more about Bluesky, please visit our FAQ. To learn more about the AT Protocol, please visit our protocol documentation.

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