Bluesky is changing course by allowing users to opt out of a change that would expose their posts to the public web. Last month, the company announced its decentralized alternative to Twitter/X would soon open up a public web interface allowing anyone to view the posts on its platform, even if they didn’t have an invite to the app, which remains in a closed beta. Though the team didn’t meet the “end of the month” deadline for the public web launch, it did ruffle some feathers. Many users were upset that their posts would be made public on the web, without the option of setting their accounts to private, aka a “friends-only” mode, like they have on X.
In a post on Wednesday, Bluesky announced its plans to open a public web interface have been pushed back — a move that’s likely due to the user feedback on the issue.
The company shared that the “upcoming release will not have the public web view enabled yet, but it will have a tool to opt out of it.”
Still, Bluesky subtly pushed back at the idea that anyone should have felt their Bluesky posts were private or protected by reminding users that “your posts, profile, and likes are all public data.” However, it’s not exactly users’ fault that they may have been lulled into a false sense of security here. Bluesky first launched in February as an invite-only app, and has remained invite-only in the many months since, even as new Twitter/X competitors emerged, including Instagram Threads. The company seemed in no rush to open to the public, and as a result, users likely felt comfortable that, by the time it did, they would have the option to lock down their accounts if need be.
But Bluesky surprised users with its announcement that a public interface would be coming soon, ahead of any option for a private mode for user profiles. Many clamored for this functionality in replies to Bluesky’s post. As one user, @wagoner, succinctly put it, “…that’s completely the wrong way around. Allow privacy first, make bluesky public second.”
Now, it seems, Bluesky is listening to its user base with the pushback of the public web interface’s launch and the debut of an opt-out tool instead.
The company explains that the opt-out tool will only affect the logged-out view of the Bluesky app itself, but it’s recommending that other third-party apps on the open network respect the setting, as well. However, it doesn’t seem to have any ability to force them to do so, which is why an option to set user profiles to private would have been a better option for account privacy.
Bluesky said it will soon share how users will be able to use the tool to opt out of the public interface and will explain to developers how to ensure compatibility with other apps, as well.
The launch of a public web interface appears to be designed to keep Bluesky a part of the larger conversation around Twitter/X alternatives in addition to making its platform more accessible to a broader user base, even as it remains invite-only.
But the launch of Threads, which now has nearly 100 million monthly active users and plans to support ActivityPub — the same protocol powering Mastodon, another decentralized alternative to X — is making Bluesky increasingly look like it may have made the wrong bet on the future of decentralized social media. Regardless of how much better its own AT Protocol may be, it doesn’t have the momentum that ActivityPub has, given Instagram’s promises to enter this space. (Whether Instagram ends up supporting ActivityPub remains to be seen, of course, but it seems to still be the plan given that the app already offers a way to verify your Threads profile on Mastodon.)
Bluesky’s shininess may be wearing off some in these later months, especially as it grappled with moderation issues. Initially, invites to the social network were such a hot commodity that they were selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. Today, the invites are available on eBay but only for a couple of dollars, indicating that demand has declined. The company has continued rolling out more tools for its users, like automated moderation tools and user and moderation lists, and reached a one million user milestone in September, but without opening its doors to the public, users may be finding other places to network, including Mastodon and Threads, if not X.