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Twitter CEO Sets Up Research Team to Create Decentralized Social Media

© AP Photo / Richard DrewFILE - In this Feb. 8, 2018, file photo, the logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2018, file photo, the logo for Twitter is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange - Sputnik International
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced Tuesday the company is funding a new research team that will develop an “open and decentralized standard for social media” and address some of the current problems with the platform.

The research team, called “Bluesky,” is aiming to make social media more like email so that users could join different networks but still communicate with each other no matter which one they’re using. 

"Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media," Dorsey wrote on Twitter. "The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard."

There are already social media platforms that operate on a decentralized framework, the most popular of which is Mastodon, an open-source social network that’s often used as an alternative to Twitter. Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web, has also launched several projects advocating for a decentralized internet. However, all these projects still lack traction, appealing to smaller audiences – while Twitter already has a user base of more than 300 million people, which could give Dorsey more traction in trying to push the standard through and convince other social networks to lend support.

The Bluesky team will include up to five architects, engineers and designers charged with creating the standard. The goal is that one day Twitter will become a “client” of the network, though it’s likely the standard will take several years to develop, Dorsey said.

“For social media, we’d like this team to either find an existing decentralized standard they can help move forward or failing that, create one from scratch,” Dorsey said. “That’s the only direction we at Twitter, Inc. will provide.”

The Twitter CEO suggested that the standard would allow Twitter to focus its “efforts on building open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation.”

Twitter’s plans, however, were criticized by media security experts as being too extensive – an open protocol will make content moderation even harder by moving much of the network permanently out of Twitter's reach, raising concerns about the moderation of the content. Alex Stamos, the former chief security officer of Facebook, weighed in on Thursday, writing on Twitter: "When I look at Twitter's challenges, I don't think to myself 'They would be so much better off if Tweets could never be deleted and every participant in the system had 100% visibility into everybody's interactions with no possibility of data protection.'"

When asked to elaborate on the Bluesky project plans, a Twitter spokesperson pointed to Dorsey’s tweets and said in a statement: “We’ve long demonstrated our commitment to doing critical work in the open and empowering people to build off of the fundamentals of our service. Apart from the technical elements outlined by Jack today, this is about exploring the fullest and most participatory vision of our service.”
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