In the 90s, many have seen the internet as a replacement for traditional media. People believed no one could ever control it. But that changed with the arrival of tech giants. Today, there is a handful of corporations and people behind every mainstream social media platform we use. As a result, what was meant to be a tool to encourage free speech, open discussion, and foster diversity of opinions became almost as controlled as mainstream media.
But does that mean we’ve lost the battle for free speech? No, not at all. Our current social media may look too centralized and easy to control. Still, the good news is that blockchain technology and decentralization give us all the reasons to believe that the revolution of social media is just starting. In this article, we will talk about decentralized social networks and why the future of the internet is on the blockchain.
What’s wrong with centralized social media today?
Besides the censorship, biased algorithms, and lack of transparency – one of the biggest problems with traditional social media platforms is that users have very little control over their data security. In one of the latest Facebook data leaks, 533 million users had their phone numbers and email addresses exposed to hackers. What’s more, user data is used to create algorithms that can influence elections, referendums, and other important life decisions – like in the “Cambridge Analytica” scandal.
The root of this problem lies in the current design of social media platforms, which store our personal data on their servers. As a result, together with the exposure to censorship, they have a single point-of-failure built into their structure – creating quite an Orwellian scenario of our nearest future.
What is decentralized social media?
Decentralized social media networks can be created using distributed ledger technologies, including traditional servers, blockchain technology, or both. To build such a social media site, you need to have a network of independent servers instead of one or several servers owned by one person or business.
An excellent example of a non-blockchain decentralized social media platform is Mastodon – a network of hundreds of communities operated by many different individuals and organizations. Mastodon is open-source; ad-free and does not have any algorithms that use your data.
Blockchain makes it even easier to create such a platform thanks to its decentralized peer-to-peer architecture that guarantees data distribution to all the nodes in the network – making it tamper-proof. This decentralization makes the data contained within the ledger immutable and censorship-resistant.
What is blockchain-based social media?
Blockchain-based social media uses cryptocurrencies to help democratize the platform’s development and management and reward users – bypassing any middlemen. For example, DeSo, a blockchain-based Twitter-like social network, allows users to tip content creators, buy their content as NFTs as well as invest in their favorite creators’ coins. This type of creator economy is at the foundation of Web 3.0 and the changes it brings to how we use the internet.
Decentralized, blockchain-based social media networks are run by their communities, where each member can vote on new features, and enhancements of existing ones and participate in building the platform. Since the blockchain secures the information, making it unchangeable, such a platform is also wholly trustless – meaning that users don’t need to trust each other to perform transactions.
With blockchain, you own not only your data but also your intellectual property. What does this mean? It means that the blockchain tracks who owns uploaded content, and you can monitor and control your ownership. Conversely, on centralized networks, you lose authority over your intellectual property and you don’t own data in most cases. How does blockchain achieve all this?
The core of the blockchain’s architecture that makes it truly immutable and censorship-resistant is a consensus mechanism that relies on “hashing” and a “proof.” The “proof” can be “proof of stake,” “proof of history,” “proof of work,” etc. The network creates a digital fingerprint of any data shared in the transaction during the hashing process, allowing for verification of the authenticity of every transaction. As a result, anyone can verify whether there has been an error and where it has occurred.
Confidentiality through transparency
Users of blockchain-based social networks regulate how their data is used, giving permissions or prohibiting transfers, monetization, or data sales. Smart contracts regulated by consensus mechanisms and the open-source nature of the software help ensure the honesty and reliability of the information.
What changes does blockchain bring to social media?
Blockchain technology is one of the most significant and promising innovations today. Being a distributed database, it can help bring multiple revolutionary transformations to our life in the long run. Complete openness, transparency, and honesty will become the actual bottom line in this new world we are building, and that’s something everyone can get behind. Let’s talk about some of the changes blockchain brings to social networking.
New network economics
In a blockchain-based social network, users participate in the economic upside of the platform because they own the network’s tokens. Early adopters benefit from this even more as the tokens’ value increases. As a result, the goal of all the participants is to make the network succeed, so they are following the same vision, creating synergy and collaboration.
This new economics also solves many problems for entrepreneurs developing dApps on blockchain by eliminating the bootstrap challenge common for traditional, centralized apps. The bootstrap phase is the hardest for all entrepreneurs, and most startups die in this phase because they don’t have enough resources to build their product and a solid user base.
Blockchain-based social networks compensate for the lack of utility (underdeveloped product) with financial rewards. Once the product becomes more sophisticated, the application utility starts overpowering financial rewards for most users.
Blockchain solves governance challenges
Who should decide whether the news is real or fake or determine who can be allowed on the platform? Is it some unnamed Community Moderator of a tech giant, or should it be decided in a more transparent, democratic way?
Blockchain makes governance open to a broader community and allows everyone to participate in the network. Because of its openness, we can all be a part of the decision-making process and use our influence to guide the community. Participation in democratic processes will mean developing a more inclusive society. In short, blockchain replaces coercion with consensus.
Today’s social networking giants, Facebook and Google, take advantage of user data to make money. Users produce the content, while these centralized institutions use their users’ vast amounts of data to sell highly tailored advertisements.
Blockchain-based decentralized social networks offer a different way of thinking about content and social media: change the paradigm from one where the social media network receives revenue for your content to one where you, the content producer, receive the compensation.
Social networks like DeSo, allow users to give users free rein over what is visible on their feed, removing hierarchy while maintaining an incentive structure geared toward honest interaction. Users are not passive as in centralized networks but instead are invested in content creation and share it at their discretion.
Those who invest their time and effort into creating valuable content get rewarded with attention rewards (think of “likes” as tips), curation rewards, content rewards, and stake rewards. That fantastic photo you took during your last trip to Bali can be sold as an NFT on the platform instead of becoming just another Instagram post.
How to build a blockchain-based social network?
#1 It starts with an idea
There is already a large number of blockchain-based networks. Most of them have been copying their centralized counterparts, trying to offer similar products, resulting in low popularity and low adoption among users.
That’s why if you want your blockchain project to bear fruit, you need to find something that others haven’t provided yet. Here are some examples of top decentralized social networks already built on blockchain.
- DeSo (BitClout) is similar to Twitter. Every creator has a token and gets rewarded for content with diamonds and investments from fellow users.
- Bastyon is a YouTube analog. It is powered by Pocketcoin (PKOIN) to reward creators and contributors.
- Steemit is a Reddit alternative on the blockchain. It is one of the many websites (DTube, and SteemPeak.com) on the Steem blockchain and STEEM cryptocurrency.
- VID is a clone of TikTok that pays users for being present in the network. Each day users prove they have been part of the network that day by pressing a button, they receive an amount of VI an ERC20 token.
- In November 2021, Solana‘s CEO and Reddit’s Co-founder announced a commitment of $100 million to grow decentralized social media projects on Solana. We expect a vast network of various integrated social media platforms to be built on Solana very soon.
There are plenty of social networks being built on blockchain already, so if you would like to create your own, you need to find a specific niche and clearly define your target audience to be successful.
#2 Functions and features
Once you’ve decided on what type of social network you would like to create, you need to determine your requirements, such as whether you will use an existing blockchain network or build your own, what security features your dApp will have, design, code quality, and specific features:
- How you will store and manage data
- Decentralization vs. partial centralization
- The revenue model for creators and developers.
All major social networks, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others, were built from scratch. Although it’s costly and time-consuming, developing your network from scratch will make you stand out from the crowd and help bring your unique idea to life. Hiring a professional blockchain development company might be the best solution as you can focus on your marketing strategy while developers are working on the technical side.
Use existing networks
To reduce the development time and cost, you can launch your social network on one of the existing platforms, such as Steem.io, Sola, EOS TRON, etc. However, you will sacrifice the diversity of functions and features of your end product by limiting yourself to the capabilities of the existing platform.
White label solutions
If your specific segment doesn’t have any competitors, you can opt for a white-label option or a clone. You will have your product ready in a couple of days with minimum investment.
Creating your new blockchain-based social network doesn’t stop here. You will need to go through testing, marketing, launch, and many other steps. However, with the right idea and strategy, you can develop something exciting that adds value to society.
What’s next for social networks on the blockchain?
Once upon a time, the internet was something we could count on as a resource of unbiased information. Anywhere we went, it was there for us and unchanged by outside forces. But now, as times change and we move into a more connected world where almost everything is networked, governments and corporations alike are taking control of what we share and see.
Decentralization has enormous potential. If a blockchain-based social network has all the features of a regular social network, why would anyone use the old, centralized kind? Why would anyone want to be shadowbanned, censored, or ripped off their data? Centralized social networks belong to corporations, while if we build something on the blockchain, the community of users will own it.
Decentralization and community ownership have tremendous implications, including:
- Direct monetization of user data without intermediaries. It will enable a new generation of content creators to monetize their work.
- Elimination of dicey moderation issues. When all the content is posted on the blockchain, moderation becomes impossible.
- Full control over your data privacy.
In short, the 4th industrial revolution and blockchain are creating tools that can help us regain control of our data and our social life while having all the advantages of modern technologies.