Twitter Ends Legacy Blue Checks and Bluesky Emerges as a Decentralized Alternative

Twitter, a social network that once connected journalists, trusted public figures and Web3 natives, dropped its legacy verification program last week, leading some users to look for alternatives.

AccessTimeIconApr 24, 2023 at 10:29 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 25, 2023 at 5:22 p.m. UTC

The changing significance of Twitter's blue verification checkmark since Elon Musk bought the social media company has created a debate among Twitter users.

Journalists, celebrities, government figures and others were able to apply for this mark of verification without charge, so long as they met certain criteria. Blue checkmarks used to be considered a sign of notability and authenticity.

In recent months, however, the rules changed. Now Twitter will allow anyone to use a blue check mark on their account for an $8 monthly fee. Last week, the site officially removed the blue check marks, leaving notable figures and journalists vulnerable to impersonation. Those without blue checkmarks will also receive lower visibility across Twitter feeds.

In an age where anyone can pay for verification, blue checkmarks have become less meaningful.

Anita Ramaswamy, a technology and finance opinion columnist at Reuters, told CoinDesk that legacy verification was a helpful tool for her as a journalist – for herself and also for finding creditable sources.

“I’m going to continue to browse Twitter to the extent I can as long as other people in the tech community are still using it, but will have to take everything I read there with an even bigger grain of salt than I did previously because I can’t easily verify that an account representing a public figure or media outlet is actually from that person or institution,” said Ramaswamy.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t heard yet of an alternative that has anywhere near the traction of Twitter, so I’m currently in ‘wait and see’ mode before I invest significant energy and time into another social platform.”

Some have already moved to Bluesky, a platform backed by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that is often touted as a decentralized Twitter alternative, opening up the potential for Web3 ideas to reach mainstream users.

Bluesky sees its opening

Dorsey began teasing his plans to build a decentralized social protocol in 2019. In an effort to make the user experience similar, he laid plans to build fundamentals of blockchain technology into the application including open-source hosting, governance structures and monetization opportunities.

In August 2021, Dorsey hired Jay Graber, blockchain developer and contributor to privacy coin ZCash, to lead Bluesky as CEO. Over the past two years, Graber and the Bluesky team have been building out the Authenticated Transport Protocol, or “AT Protocol,” in order to make social media interoperable and decentralized across different applications united under one ecosystem.

In October, when Bluesky opened the waitlist for its beta, it received 30,000 signups in 48 hours.

“Our goal is to assemble a social media architecture that composes third-party services into a seamless user experience because an open ecosystem is likely to evolve more quickly than a single approach to curation or moderation developed within one company,” said Graber in a March blog post. “By creating the interfaces for innovation in these areas, we hope to provide a dynamic and user-driven social experience.”

In early March, Bluesky hit mobile application stores and opened its beta to select names on the waitlist, ushering in a flood of users eager to test out a decentralized social media model. The platform has also granted early users “invite codes” in order to encourage adoption.

CoinDesk obtained one of these invitations in order to test out Bluesky. At present, the experience is similar to Twitter, although features are more streamlined. There is no verification strategy, uncensored content, no direct messages or supplemental features like “lists” or Spaces. Users can simply post, like and repost content on the application.

Despite its bare-bones features, Bluesky is growing in popularity among those who are seeking to move away from Twitter.

Andrew Rossow, an attorney and founder of AR Media, told CoinDesk that after years of using Twitter he’s ready to take a step back due to the recent policies that have made the application no longer productive to use.

“I cannot stand by and support a platform that treats user identity and content preferences as a marketing ploy and chance to profit, without any regard for the injuries and harm that will inevitably come from it – this is a feeling many users share who have felt the repercussions of being ‘vulnerable’ to targeted attacks," he said.

Rossow predicted that Twitter’s days are “numbered,” and that many of these pain points brought on by the application can be solved by decentralized media. He sees decentralized social media platforms like Bluesky and others rising in popularity, including Zion, Nostr and Mastodon, as a way for users to communicate without barriers established by one leader in charge.

Nostr’s Damus was listed on the Apple app store in February 2022 and has also received support from Dorsey, who gave 14 BTC in funding in December 2022 to help development efforts.

“For users that are prioritizing identity, content moderation and account portability, I strongly believe there will be a large migration of users from Twitter towards decentralized social media platforms,” said Rossow.

Edited by Rosie Perper and Toby Leah Bochan.


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Cam Thompson

Cam Thompson was a news reporter at CoinDesk.