Twitter is creating a group called Bluesky tasked with developing an open-source decentralized internet standard that the social platform would eventually adopt itself, according to a Wednesday thread by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, perBusiness Insider.

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In the near term, Twitter will hire about five people for the team, including information architects, engineers, and designers, and wants ideal candidates to have “experience working in the open on the blockchain.” However, the standard will take years to develop, and potentially longer to roll out. Adopting a decentralized standard for social media means that Twitter would become an open protocol similar to that which which email operates on. That means Twitter would provide the infrastructure enabling the creation of many different, interoperable, Twitter-like platforms.

Dorsey’s conceptualization of open, decentralized social media is a drastic, yet revolutionary solution to content moderation. Content moderation has become one of the most urgent, yet difficult problems for social platforms, given the scale of usage and content.

By proposing this as a solution, Dorsey seems to be consenting that content moderation at scale is too burdensome for individual platforms looking to both keep speech free and users safe. In theory, an open, decentralized standard used by many different platforms could relieve Twitter itself of responsibility for managing what people post, because communication would be spread across the different interoperable platforms using the standard rather than concentrated on Twitter alone as it is today. 

Without that burden, Dorsey said that Twitter would be able to focus more on building better content recommendation algorithms that promote healthy conversation — a role he sees as being social media’s chief functional value to users and the internet at large. Despite that this solution lessens Twitter’s grip over what’s posted on the internet, it’s potentially a more holistic way for Twitter to achieve its primary goal since March 2018, which is to “help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation.”

While it’s several years off and could just as well not happen at all, the project has the potential to completely transform Twitter’s business model and break new ground for social media in general. With a decentralized framework, monetization for social platforms would likely take on new forms. If Bluesky does develop a viable open protocol, Twitter would enable developers or virtually anyone to create alternatives supplied with Twitter’s tools, features, and recommendation algorithms.

As a result, it’s possible that Twitter would operate more like a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider, where Twitter’s product would become its ability to facilitate and improve content access and discovery, with monetization stemming from fees related to licensing out those tools to each alternative version. Alternatively, Twitter could continue to sell ads by enabling advertisers to make targeted buys from among distinct or across a broader array of various decentralized alternatives, likely programmatically or with a potential revenue share. 

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