After more than a year as an exclusive invite-only social media platform, Bluesky is now open to the public, so anyone can join without needing a once-coveted invite code.
In a blog, Bluesky said that requiring invite codes helped Bluesky “manage growth” while building features that allow users to control what content they see on the social platform.
When Bluesky debuted, many viewed it as a potential Twitter killer, but limited access to Bluesky may have weakened momentum. As of January 2024, Bluesky has more than 3 million users. That’s significantly less than X (formerly Twitter), which estimates suggest currently boasts more than 400 million global users.
But Bluesky CEO Jay Graber wrote in a blog last April that the app needed time because its goal was to piece together a new kind of social network built on its own decentralized protocol, AT Protocol. This technology allows users to freely port their social media accounts to different social platforms—including followers—rather than being locked into walled-off experiences on a platform owned by “a single company” like Meta’s Threads.
Perhaps most critically, the team wanted time to build out content moderation features before opening Bluesky to the masses to “prioritize user safety from the start.”
Bluesky plans to take a threefold approach to content moderation. The first layer is automated filtering that removes illegal, harmful content like child sexual abuse materials. Beyond that, Bluesky will soon give users extra layers of protection, including community labels and options to enable admins running servers to filter content manually.
Labeling services will be rolled out “in the coming weeks,” the blog said. These labels will make it possible for individuals or organizations to run their own moderation services, such as a trusted fact-checking organization. Users who trust these sources can subscribe to labeling services that filter out or appropriately label different types of content, like “spam” or “NSFW.”
“The human-generated label sets can be thought of as something similar to shared mute/block lists,” Bluesky explained last year.
Currently, Bluesky is recruiting partners for labeling services and did not immediately respond to Ars’ request to comment on any initial partnerships already formed.
It appears that Bluesky is hoping to bring in new users while introducing some of its flashiest features. Within the next month, Bluesky will also “be rolling out an experimental early version of ‘federation,’ or the feature that makes the network so open and customizable,” the blog said. The sales pitch is simple:
On Bluesky, you’ll have the freedom to choose (and the right to leave) instead of being held to the whims of private companies or black box algorithms. And wherever you go, your friends and relationships can go with you.
Developers interested in experimenting with the earliest version of AT Protocol can start testing out self-hosting servers now.
In addition to allowing users to customize content moderation, Bluesky also provides ways to customize feeds. Anyone joining will be defaulted to only see posts from users they follow, but they can also set up filters to discover content they enjoy without relying on a company’s algorithm to learn what interests them.
Bluesky users who sat on invite codes over the past year have joked about their uselessness now, with some designating themselves as legacy users. Seeming to reference Twitter’s once-coveted blue checks, one Bluesky user responding to a post from Graber joked, “When does everyone from the invite-only days get their Bluesky Elder profile badge?”