As new Twitter CEO Elon Musk continues to make various controversial changes to the platform, some of its users have appeared to look for decentralized alternatives such as Nostr and Bluesky. The recent rapid growth of these platforms evidences this. The two are backed by former Twitter head Jack Dorsey.
Bluesky launched its app for Android phones on Friday, about a month after releasing its app for iOS devices. The firm announced its working to roll out the web version to the public soon. Currently, one can only access Bluesky through an invite. But despite this limitation, the platform has seen an increase in new members, from 1,500 to 3,000 per day. As of this writing, there are about 34,000 registered accounts.
Bluesky is a Proof-of-concept (PoC) front-end to Authenticated Transfer (AT) Protocol. This protocol is intended to facilitate developers with tools to build interoperable apps on it. Nostr is similar to AT Protocol, with over ten apps already operating on the platform.
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Another decentralized social media protocol is Mastodon. Launched in 2016, the platform saw its user base grow from 400,000 to 2,000,000 last year. However, the buzz around Mastodon has been declining as users complain of unsatisfying experiences while using the platform.
Nostr Vs. Bluesky
Nostr (Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays) is a decentralized platform based on private and public key cryptography, meaning it is filled with technical language. The canonical identity of a user is their public key which looks like this: cvgdhg5hjhfe87ientre989rew87frh47r94rb4fndfd75tnfr6. While it is possible to register an account with a username such as firstname.lastname@example.org, you will have to pay some crypto.
Currently, Nostr has over 15 million users, most of which are NFT fans and digital artists. Nostr.Band’s data indicates that the platform has more than 700,000 daily active users. By comparison, Bluesky’s user base is less than 100,000 and has daily users of about 7,000.
Despite publicly declaring his association with Bluesky, Dorsey appears to be spending more time on Nostr. On Saturday, he was involved in a heated exchange with a Nostr user who called Bluesky a shameless Twitter clone. Dorsey told the user to stop comparing the two platforms as they are intended to serve different purposes.
Later that day, Bluesky’s team published a list of projects building on the AT protocol. The team also announced it had added support for app-specific passwords, allowing AT protocol users to grant access to their accounts even without providing their credentials.
Most users of Nostr and Bluesky regularly claim that the two platforms are better than Twitter. However, they also acknowledge that they are early adopters, and user experience may be affected when these decentralized protocols get into the mainstream.
What are the Challenges Faced by Decentralized Social Media Platforms?
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The recent decentralized social media platforms’ growth has not been without growing pains. For example, Bluesky has sometimes encountered slow performance. In addition, it does not support hashtags. But with the arrival of Chris Messina, the self-proclaimed creator of hashtags, that may change soon.
Bluesky users have also been demanding the platform update a feature for blocking or muting other users. This week, AT Protocol CEO Jay Graber revealed that the firm will design a moderation system to address the issue.
When users asked when Bluesky would start supporting videos and GIFs, the platform’s lead developer Paul Frazee replied that the firm’s main goal was to complete the core mission, which includes moderation, federation tools, and curation, before embarking on developing other features.
Meanwhile, Nostr users are still debating on ‘Zaps’ implementation. Simply put, Zaps are interactions different from replies, reposts, or likes and usually support the integration of blockchain elements that facilitate micropayments. This means a user can be rewarded by other users who find their posts interesting. Some Nostr users want Zaps to replace likes completely, while others call for both to coexist.