Last December, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted plans to set up BlueSky, a non profit to build a decentralized social media protocol. At the Oslo Freedom Forum last week, he spoke a little about the concept which has yet to find a leader. His plan is for an open source social media protocol, of which Twitter would become a client.
Apart from being enamored with Bitcoin and blockchain, he sees blockchain as a tool to address the hacking risk of centralized identities. In 2014 the Saudi Arabian government allegedly infiltrated Twitter by corrupting two Twitter employees who handed over to the Saudis identifying information of pseudonymous users, some of whom were Saudi dissidents.
Talking about the topic during the Oslo Freedom Forum, Dorsey said: “The more we’re giving the individuals the keys, the safer this whole system is going to be.” Dorsey also spoke about how today’s platforms are partly in the content hosting business, and when the content is stored on a blockchain, that role goes away.
He envisions a decentralized social media protocol that harks back to the roots of both the internet and Twitter. In the pre-web days, many people used Usenet, which is a type of distributed discussion forums. The protocol is decentralized, but the discovery is tricky and Google and Facebook have emerged as a centralized web discovery solutions. Dorsey acknowledged that Twitter, too, is a centralized discovery tool.
In the early days of Twitter, some weren’t convinced it should be a company. It appeared more like an alternative email solution and email is based on the open source SMTP protocol.
Speaking about that initial period, Dorsey noted others’ opinions at the time. “It feels more like a technology that I can use to build whatever I want to build on top of,” said Dorsey. “And that was such a magic time and such a magic understanding of what Twitter was. And we want to get back to that. And we want to help the world get back to that as well,” said Dorsey.
His vision is a protocol accessible to anyone, where they can make decisions about engagement, what they own, see and share. “We need to enable people to contribute to a public blockchain and we need to enable people to pull and see from that public blockchain as well,” said Dorsey.
Notably, the only public blockchain he mentioned was Bitcoin. When he first announced the concept last December, he said the team could decide whether to use an existing blockchain or create a new one. Facebook also decided to create its own blockchain protocol, Libra. But nine months later, Dorsey has not yet hired a leader for the social media blockchain. And given it was the leader who would choose the five developers, Blue Sky is still just that.