Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, announced that Twitter will be developing a decentralized blockchain-based social media platform. More specifically, Twitter Chief Technical Officer (CTO) Parag Agrawal will find a leader for a team that will develop this platform. Then the leader will hire everyone else needed. After that, Twitter Inc. will fund the project until it is completed. This project is being called bluesky.
Notably, this announcement is coming in the same week that Twitter put shadowbanning into their terms of service via the following clause: “We may also remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services, limit distribution or visibility of any Content on the service, suspend or terminate users, and reclaim usernames without liability to you.”
Dorsey explains that centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse is placing too much of a burden on people and cannot scale long term. Perhaps more importantly, there is so much content on social media that recommendation algorithms are needed to direct user attention, and these algorithms are proprietary, i.e. not open source, according to Dorsey.
Dorsey believes that social media incentivizes people to focus their attention on controversial and outrageous content rather than informative content that promotes health and well-being.
Dorsey basically skirts the censorship issue in this tweet series, although the discussion of proprietary recommendation algorithms is related to the censorship issue. Censorship on centralized social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit has gotten to the point that it can cripple free speech, at least some of the time.
There is always a risk on centralized social media platforms that posts that disagree with mainstream sentiment about political, economic, or scientific issues will be deleted by a moderator. Also, new businesses have a difficult time growing on social media since moderators often delete anything that can be considered ‘promotional,’ even if that business is posting original content.
The recommendation algorithms also do not give new businesses and new users, in general, a fair shot on social media since these algorithms favor accounts that are already extremely popular. Spending money on advertising is pretty much required to have any chance of gaining a real following no matter how good a new account’s content is.
Dorsey says that the reason this announcement is coming now is that new technologies have made a decentralized social media platform viable, specifically blockchain technology. Dorsey even hints at using cryptocurrency for this decentralized platform.
To be fair about the development of this decentralized social media platform, Dorsey says it will be developed out in the open. He says that the bluesky team will either find an existing decentralized platform and build on top of it or create one from scratch. Either way, Twitter Inc. will fund the project until it is complete even if it takes years.
Indeed, Dorsey says it will likely take years for this decentralized social media platform to be ready since it will have to be sound, scalable, and easily usable. Further, a decentralized open-source recommendation algorithm that promotes healthy content will be a primary aspect of the project, and this will take time to develop properly.
If bluesky is ultimately successful, it will be a paradigm shift for the social media world. Freedom will be greatly enhanced since moderators will no longer be able to censor content. Scientific, economic, and political theories will develop more rapidly since ideas will not be censored, and this could lead to more numerous and frequent breakthroughs and a more advanced society. Additionally, new businesses will have a fair shot at gaining visibility without being forced to pay for advertising.
There have been experiments with blockchain-based decentralized social media platforms already, most notably Steemit. However, no decentralized social media platform has become popular in the mainstream. What makes bluesky different is that Twitter has the resources to make a truly optimal decentralized platform — and hundreds of millions of users to speed adoption.
If Dorsey’s plans come to fruition, this blockchain-based decentralized social media platform could easily become the first-of-its-kind to be mass adopted worldwide, and it is easy to see how that can change the world for the better.