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Hellthread, also known as Hellrope, refers to a bug or feature in the social networking part of the decentralized protocol Bluesky. The social, frontend part of Bluesky, which resembles Twitter, allows users to reply to skeets made by other users and assemble threads made of many replies from many different people. The hellthread is a reply thread that notifies every single user on it anytime that someone posts anyplace along the thread. At the beginning of its history, it was impossible to mute hellthread notifications.
Early references to the bug that generates hellthreads on Bluesky were purportedly made in the early spring of 2023, as the developers behind the app and early users encountered issues with the beta.
On April 28th, 2023, Bluesky user Kylie Robison purportedly made the first hellthread on the platform in a since-deleted skeet that devolved into many users trolling and supposedly breaking the app. The post recapping this event (shown below), received roughly 85 likes and seven reposts in 48 hours.
Then, in the last week of April 2023 as the invite-only beta testing opened up to the so-called "terminally online subcluster" (as represented on the April 28th network graph below) and a number of prominent Twitter personalities began posting, a larger and intentionally created hellthread emerged.
On April 30th, the user known as Juniper (who on Twitter was famously responsible for the spread of Goblin Mode) claimed to have watched the hellthread begin in their replies the day before (shown below). Early descriptions of "hellthread" also used the term "hellrope" as part of an in-platform attempt to establish a Bluesky-specific lingo (replacing "thread" with "rope").
One particularly prominent feature of hellthread was berduck.bsky.social, an account that represented a duck writing in baby voice that used artificial intelligence to reply to any user's skeet with a question, stimulating more replies and conversation. Berduck inspired much discussion (seen below). Many who found the hellthread interesting advocated for Bluesky to keep it going.
Over the weekend of April 29-30th, 2023, as the hellthread expanded and roped in more and more users, Bluesky staff told users that it could not be fixed until Paul Frazzle, the person responsible for that aspect of the code, came into work on Monday, May 1st. Jay Graber and the team allowed the hellthread to flourish until at least the start of the work week.
As more posters joined into the hellthread, specific sub-threads emerged, and the thread continually branched off into ever-more specific posting niches. A user who joined the hellthread by replying to a skeet or being tagged in one would not be able to see "uprope" skeets, meaning those made before they joined hellthread. Further, a user could also not see elements of hellthread that took place in diverging branches, however, there was no clear method of seeing how many branches or hellthrealds really existed.
The hellthread then purportedly broke the app for Bluesky, as well as the notifications function, and generated, according to some, the vast majority of posts over the weekend of April 29-30th.
Hellthread featured a wide variety of conversations, content types and sub-groups. Many used hellthread to post explicit pictures, including but not limited to nudes and Goatse. Others brought Discourse into hellthread, discussing Elon Musks' acquisition of Twitter and other topics. Conversations about animals, TV and other aspects of culture were also widespread. However, perhaps the most frequent topic of conversation in the hellthread was hellthread itself (seen below).
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