The blockchain industry is growing rapidly. The newest innovations are catching the interest of thousands of users as many new narratives emerge. From DeFi platforms pushing the limits on financial products in the DeFi Summer of 2020 to NFTs helping communities realise the power of trading culture in 2021. Naturally, these narratives created communities that became very familiar with blockchain technology as data sovereignty and trustless communication are also becoming important when people express themselves online. In this article, we’ll dive into what is broken in the current landscape of social media, what social media is like when blockchain technology is at the epicentre of our interactions and whether this could be a prominent narrative to reshape the online social world.
The world is the most connected it’s ever been thanks to the breakthroughs of the internet, mobile devices and social media apps. However, we as users have compromised a lot for an average ad-driven user experience. From our data being used to steer elections to unjustly being de-platformed from our favourite app, there is very little control or say for the user.
At the core, the most popular social media platforms all share the trait of misaligned incentives amongst their shareholders, engineers and users. It has always been about shareholder value and extracting as much as possible from the users. On top of this, creators have grown so reliant on these platforms for their livelihood (which isn’t inherently wrong) yet because the creator has little control over their published content, they run the risk of losing their entire business and access to their audience which may only exist on a single platform.
Before diving into what Web3 is doing to reshape the world of social media, let’s summarise what web2 social media is doing wrong:
The Foundations of Web3 Social Media Christina Bellatramini, the Head of Growth at Lens Protocol, explained that Web2 Social Media is like renting out a space online, similar to renting a house. “You spend all this money and time renovating the space but ultimately, you don't own it.” Web3 Social Media enables you to be the homeowner by owning your space/data/content online.
Web3 introduces the power of blockchain technology - a transparent, decentralised digital ledger that stores immutable data. Bitcoin proved that value could be sent without intermediaries and Ethereum enabled us to build on-chain programmable applications. Incorporating these two notions means that we have the tools to build Web3 social media apps with no one person or entity to control your access and content. The open-source design of blockchain technology creates composability and lets anyone re-use the code to speed up/improve development. On top of this, the characteristics of a blockchain enable data sovereignty, meaning you decide who has access to your data and how it can be used. This eliminates the idea of the user being seen as the product but also user privacy is far more protected from data breaches or third-party advertisers.
It is this type of infrastructure that creates a positive-sum value for everyone in relation to the zero-sum game that Web2 social media is currently providing. Creators now have ownership over their content, users have the choice of how their data is used and developers have open access to improving multiple systems for a greater social experience.
By understanding the basics of what blockchain technology can provide social networks, we can expand on additional features to take the experience further. The first point to mention is that profile interoperability can evolve beyond a single platform thanks to a user’s Web3 wallet being the only credential needed to access multiple platforms. The user’s wallet is not just where funds are held but where data is collected against an address to become a person’s digital footprint/social graph. By connecting your wallet from one web3 application to another, all the content published under that wallet address can be pulled and shown on the next application. Nothing is siloed to one platform. In-app payments are also seamlessly integrated by using a web3 wallet and will encourage secure peer-to-peer payments without the need for a third party. However, the limitation to achieving full profile interoperability is that your on-chain social graph is restricted to dApps native to one blockchain’s environment. Many projects are building out chain-agnostic solutions where your data will soon live in a multi-chain world but at least this is a step in the right direction.
Not everything we see on the internet is true. In fact, figuring out what information is real is becoming more difficult by the day. Given this fact, a lot of people have taken it upon themselves to spread misinformation in large groups on Reddit, Facebook etc in the form of Troll Farms in order to steer bias and achieve political/religious outcomes. Web3 can offer valuable solutions to prevent the spread of illegitimate content. Some web3 platforms utilise algorithms built on the blockchain to validate the authenticity of user-generated content and videos. Although it could be more flawless, it is proving effective in curbing the rise of unreliable and malicious content. Another solution is offering blockchain-linked payments to users to trade for ranking the authenticity of the content.
The user experience of social media with web3 technology could be significantly different from the current centralized model of social media platforms. Some potential benefits and changes to the user experience of social media with web3 technology include:
Overall, the integration of web3 technologies into social media has the potential to enable new forms of user ownership, incentivization, and trust. It could also help to address some of the challenges and concerns that have emerged around existing centralised social media platforms and could provide a more engaging and rewarding social media experience for users. The amalgamation of community, tokenization, privacy and data sovereignty really lays the perfect foundation for an incredible social experience online and not if, but when this narrative picks up steam it will reshape the way we express ourselves online for the better.