Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey said Wednesday that the company wants to create "an open and decentralized standard for social media," a development that he said could help the site do a better job of combating abusive and misleading information.
To accomplish this vision, Dorsey said, Twitter is funding an independent team dubbed "bluesky" that'll have up to five architects, engineers and designers. The team will be led by Parag Agrawal, Twitter's chief technology officer. Dorsey said the effort, which Twitter hopes to eventually be a client of, will take several years.
Eventually, Dorsey hopes social media networks will operate more like email, which allows users to send messages to one another even if they aren't on the same service, because of their shared, open protocol.
"Why is this good for Twitter?" Dorsey asked in a series of tweets about bluesky. "It will allow us to access and contribute to a much larger corpus of public conversation, focus our efforts on building open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation, and will force us to be far more innovative than in the past."
Moderating posts on Twitter has been particularly challenging. Currently, Twitter decides what content stays up or gets pulled down from its site by enforcing its rules against hate speech, violence and other offensive materials. The site often relies on users to report posts that violate its rules. It also shows posts it thinks its users want to see higher on the site. The company might be better equipped to moderate content if bluesky allowed Twitter to give everyone the ability to build tools and alternative recommendation algorithms within the social network.
Dorsey acknowledged that the incentives within social media encourage outrageous and controversial material, which draw attention. A decentralized architecture that allows the development of new recommendation algorithms could help address that issue.
Open-source social networks already exist. Mastodon, for example, lets anyone build a separate server with its own rules.
The service tweeted that Twitter wasn't "reinventing the wheel."
In his tweets, Dorsey said bluesky was open to working with existing decentralized standards but would consider creating a new one if necessary.
"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."