Bluesky needs active users who produce content - not passive onlookers

Feb 19, 2024
social media
user privacy
heavy users
Bluesky arrival is great following Twitter’s erratic management, but its growth is severely limited by how crowded the market already is.
notion image
Social media is no longer the thriving hope for real public debate we once dreamed of. It has become a realm of machines that hijack information and sell it to the highest bidder, for reasons ranging from information architecture to poor incentives determined by business models. The emergence of Bluesky represents a bold endeavor to redefine the microblogging experience. This experience was ultimately defined by Twitter, only to be thrown into turmoil by Elon Musk's erratic behavior. Conceived by one of Twitter's co-founders, Bluesky seeks to carve out a niche in a domain recently characterized by turmoil, dissatisfaction, and an increasing concern about user privacy). The platform's genesis arrives at a critical juncture, as Twitter's new management faces backlash over perceived recklessness, and Meta's Threads struggles to shake off the shadow of past scandals. Yet, despite the apparent vacuum for an alternative, Bluesky's journey towards prominence is fraught with formidable challenges.
Bluesky distinguishes itself through a pioneering architecture designed to empower users with greater control over their data. This decentralization effort aims to mitigate the pitfalls of existing social networks, where user information is often commodified with scant regard for privacy. The principle is commendable, promising a more ethical and user-centric online environment. However, two questions remain: Is the market ready to embrace such a paradigm shift, and how long will users resist without the minimum content available for the product to gain traction (which is the major complaint of newbie users)?
The current social media ecosystem is far from the barren landscape it once was. Hundreds of platforms vie for user attention, including dozens of microblogs that offer similar functionalities to Twitter and Bluesky. More than 30 of them have more than 100 million users by December 2023. This saturation makes it increasingly difficult for newcomers to secure a foothold, let alone thrive. Users, particularly those with substantial followings, are understandably hesitant to transition to a new platform that demands significant investment in time and content creation, risking the loss of their established digital presence. I previously argued that heavy users are the real gold of Internet products, and it is still the case. These sources are the ones who create enough content to attract audiences.
The case of Bluesky exemplifies the challenges of innovating in a crowded market. Unlike Threads, Bluesky starts from scratch. Despite its novel approach to data management and user autonomy, achieving success requires more than just technological superiority. It also entails building trust and credibility in a market still recovering from controversies surrounding its competitors. Users, becoming increasingly discerning, want assurance that their investment in a new platform won't be wasted. The timing is opportune: Twitter's reliability is severely compromised and Meta is still trying to recover from the Metaverse blunder. However, unfortunately for Bluesky, the environment is not as welcoming as the moment.
Statistically, the growth of social media platforms is heavily influenced by network effects, where the value of the service increases as more people join. This dynamic poses a significant barrier to entry for Bluesky, as the platform must not only attract individual users but also foster a vibrant community that can compete with the likes of Twitter and Threads. Convincing users to migrate, especially high-profile individuals and businesses, is a monumental task that requires strategic outreach and compelling value propositions.
Bluesky's commitment to a decentralized model could, in theory, address many of the concerns users have with existing platforms. By giving users more control over their data, Bluesky positions itself as a safer and more transparent alternative. However, this model also introduces complexities in moderation and governance that could deter users seeking a seamless social media experience.
Bluesky's mission to redefine social media is laudable, but its path to success is anything but assured. The platform's innovative architecture sets it apart, but breaking through the noise of a crowded market requires more than just technological advancements. At this point, Bluesky needs partnerships with content producers - both individuals and businesses - to reach content traction. But unlike the “treason” that Facebook committed (hijacking traffic to sell it to the highest bidder), Bluesky would need to commit to keep sending traffic for these partners in the future. Without a wide offer of people and content to follow, Bluesky’s lifespan equals the patience of the early adopters to visit daily and scavenge for something to see. In a time where there is infinite content available elsewhere, the clock is already ticking for the newcomer.

© Cassiano Gobbet 2023 - 2024