The motivations for a decentralized social network have roots in the restrictions laid by contemporary platforms on what users and developers can do to build a healthy ecosystem. For a detailed analysis of these motivations and resulting architecture choices, the essay “Sufficient Decentralization for Social Networks” by Varun Srinivasan is a good starting point. The following wish list is inspired based on what an open protocol for a sufficiently decentralized social network, like Farcaster, can enable for users.
Context: We live in a world that is getting increasingly polarized. As a direct consequence, our online social experiences are becoming radically binary, where we seek inspiration and learn only from identities that fit our limited worldviews. Why do we have to choose between putting a person on a permanent pedestal for their noblest deeds or canceling their entire identity for their worst choices?
How may I be able to curate content from a person for topics I trust them with versus consuming everything the person has an opinion on? How may I staunchly disagree with the political views of a sportsperson, but still be able to curate and consume their views on my favorite game?
Feature: Rather than following a user account in its entirety for the content it might share, the app offers customization on topics I can choose to see from that account. Thus, I can enrich the quality of content I consume on topics that matter to me from people who inspire me the most, even though I may disagree with the same people on topics outside my core focus.
Context: What we share on our social networks and who we share it with has been hardwired to each platform’s native content format with limited to no ability for creators to customize how we share content and with whom. Besides, there is little to no support for a creator to define varying levels of user engagement (e.g., the granularity of content) with a goal for monetization.
Feature: Enable the creator to seamlessly cast content at varying levels of granularity and formats that get personalized to the user based on their relationship with the creator. The same cast might appear as a textual summary for a new follower, whereas as premium long form content for another paid user.
Context: Bad actors with tools to deploy automated bots can control and swing the narrative on a social network. Worse, centralized for-profit companies who own the platform have very little incentive to remove fake accounts.
Feature: Integrate accounts with a proof-of-personhood protocol such as Proof of Humanity or BrightID to ensure the uniqueness of digital user accounts without compromising user privacy. Users can then make an informed choice on who they interact with and at what levels of trust.
In the long run, the ultimate beauty of an open protocol is that no single team has to bear the mantle of getting things right all the time. None of the features above might be critical for a product-market fit. However, the fact that designers and engineers can take a shot at building similar features and letting the user community be the ultimate judge of what is relevant is where the future will be different compared to the times we live in today.