Over the past two weeks, an account on Jack Dorsey’s new social network Bluesky has become Twitter’s hottest status symbol. You can’t sign up yet, and Bluesky users get just one invite code every two weeks. That’s left plebeians who weren’t personally haloed in by Dorsey begging for access in the DMs of our more blessed friends. There’s a shortcut, though. Money can’t buy you everything, but if you head to eBay, it can buy you a Bluesky invitation.
As you read this, Bluesky invites are selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. first spotted by TechCrunch, 41 have sold already, with most going for well over $US100. More listings post by the minute, as bidding wars drive prices over $US200. One eBay user named Kasen Sansonetti has a Bluesky invite for the trolling Buy It Now price of $US6,900, plus $US5.10 shipping (they’re also open to otheroffers).
“About the time I first got on Bluesky, I realised what a golden opportunity I had been blessed with,” said Sansonetti, a 30-year old Kansas City resident and CEO of Wetware Records. “After messaging the mayor of Kansas City and asking him if he wanted an invite, he replied with a quickness saying ‘yes please! You’re the best.’ I knew then that these invite codes were important. I also knew that the app was growing faster and faster each day andthat the team was small. That could only mean one thing: we were approaching a bottleneck.” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas could not immediately be reached for comment.
Sansonetti said selling the invite feels like a betrayal of his punk roots, but he need the money to fix their car and get some dental work. “Who can afford to be punk rock anymore? Not in this economy,” Sansonetti said.
Bluesky is manufacturing scarcity, intentionally slowing access to the platform, likely in an effort to drive up interest. It seems like it’s working. Lucky account holders are posting screenshots of their shiny new accounts on the barren wasteland that is Twitter, lording their extremely-online badges of honour over the masses.
“I remember buying a gmail invite code off of eBay about 20 years ago and thought I could do the same thing here,” said one eBay seller, who asked to remain anonymous. “Once I saw others selling invites I knew I had something. Also, to be fair I did offer the invite to some friends and no one wanted it. Bluesky isn’t as well known, at least in my circles.”
The app couldn’t ask for a better PR moment. Those who’ve made it past the its exclusive gates report it feels like the wild glory days of early Twitter. It has none of the distasteful controversy of the older bird app, aside from the company’s losing effort to get people to stop calling posts “Skeets.”
Another eBay Bluesky seller worried that their code will be bought up by a troll set on polluting a delicately flourishing community. “I do think Bluesky is in a special place right now where the community isn’t nearly as toxic as something like Twitter is now,” said the seller, who also requested anonymity. “But I’m also hopeful somebody will buy it like me who was really saddened by the decline of Twitter and just wants to be part of a community that right now is reflecting the best parts of what Twitter used to be.”
Elon Musk hasn’t said anything much about Bluesky yet. Given his petty track record, however, it’s probably a matter of time before the billionaire tweets something about how none of this bothers him, like not at all. While Bluesky seems off to a promising start, Musk seems unable to resist smashing the “I Heart Losing” button in his office at Twitter headquarters.
Musk’s last few months at Twitter will be studied in business schools as an example of catastrophic mismanagement. Somehow, the man once hailed as the world’s savviest business maverick turned Twitter verification from a hot commodity into a mark of Cain. The blue check used to signal that a billion dollar company had decided you were important, but today many Twitter users largely see it as a sign that you’re either a sucker or an Elon supporter. Most people would rather be seen as neither.
In late April, Musk followed through on his promise of a verification apocalypse by removing Blue Checks from an estimated 407,000 accounts that were verified before his tenure. Reportedly, just 28 people signed up for Twitter Blue that day.
Before, it was often unclear whether you were paying for your blue check or you’d gotten it the old fashioned way. Removing the legacy accounts exposed the relatively minuscule group of people paying Twitter $US8 ($11) a month to be promoted by the company’s algorithm, many of whom seemed embarrassed.
A few extremely famous users including William Shatner and Lebron James didn’t lose their blue checks, but it was such a mark of shame that both made a point of tweeting that they weren’t paying for them. Musk acknowledged he was paying for a few Twitter blue subscriptions personally. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Musk started dolling out blue checks as a punishment, adding them to the accounts of several of his critics, including novelist Stephen King.
In other words, Musk weaponised the fact that no one wants something that he’s desperately trying to convince people to pay for. This week, Twitter changed the blue check label to make it less humiliating, removing information about whether the user paid top get it.
It didn’t have to be this way. Charging for verification is problematic, but it isn’t a crazy business strategy. An algorithm boost and protection from trolls is something many people would pay for if it wouldn’t ruin your reputation in the process. Musk is using verification and just about every other decision at Twitter as a channel for his personal grievances. The latest example came Tuesday, when Musk emailed an NPR reporter threatening to give the outlet’s account away to another company if it didn’t start tweeting again.
Thanks to Musk’s tantrums and haphazard changes, Twitter is now decidedly uncool to millions of users who once embraced it, despite its flaws. If Bluesky plays its cards right, it could be in a better position to topple Twitter than any other competitor. Facebook’s early success started in much the same way. In the early days, you couldn’t get on the website unless you had a college email account. Growing a social media platform is as much about hype as anything else.
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