Can decentralized social networks be a new trend in the aftermath of the Facebook, Cambridge Analytica scandal?
While most digital ledgers and blockchain-based platforms still have problems scaling as more users jump on board, it seems the number of blockchain-based social media startups is increasing both in number and in usership.
“These decentralized systems are just not made to grow and scale for the masses yet,” Anthony Di Iorio, co-founder of ethereum, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “There are always problems with early technology. It takes time.”
But Di Iori pointed out that it’s worth the wait. “This will be more important than the Internet,” he told Bloomberg. “It’s going to be massively disruptive for every sector.”
Here a look at seven social media platforms on the blockchain, or experimenting with blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
Sapien (sapien.network), a highly customizable, democratized social news platform built on the Ethereum blockchain capable, describes itself as an alternative to social news platforms like Facebook and Google.
Its mission, according to a recent post by Sam Mathews here on Medium, is “to champion users and truth, not financial gain, as the core of its social network.” The post points out that “the blockchain is the foundation upon which a truly transparent and democratic platform can be built” and it allows Sapiens to reward “millions of content creators and curators without any centralized intermediaries.”
Mathews explains that “modern social news sites are both obsolete and dangerous.” He says: “Sapien rewrites the social network experience to champion the user and the truth while leveraging the powerful capabilities of the blockchain. In doing so, the Sapien team hopes to build a brighter social future that brings out the best in people, their creations, and their ideas without sacrificing the importance of transparency and accuracy.”
Steemit (steemit.com) describes itself as the first social network built on the Steem blockchain, a decentralized reward platform for publishers to monetize content and grow community. It is a sort of Reddit.
“While most social media sites extract this value for the benefit of their shareholders, Steemit believes that the users of the platform should receive the benefits and rewards for their attention and the contributions they make to the platform,” the company explains on its website. “At its root, Steem is simply a points system. However, because this points system is blockchain-based, the points can be traded on markets as tokens. People buy and sell these tokens, and many hold in anticipation of increased purchasing power for various Steem-related services. The rewards people earn are tokens that have market value and are readily tradable. It is similar to how someone playing a video game could obtain a limited item or currency by playing the game. If the currency or items are transferable between users, then they can sell or buy them on game item markets.”
“I feel like I’m in the Stone Age when I’m on Facebook or Twitter,” David Kadavy, a user of Steemit, told Bloomberg. “They have no value without what you’re contributing to them. If Facebook doesn’t respond to this, things can change very quickly. They should be very concerned.”
The platform, which according to its website counts more than 700,000 users worldwide, has evolved from what it calls “the concept of following.” Sola “spreads information like a viral disease to the most interested users, applying AI algorithms combined with users reactions. Quality content can easily reach the whole Sola user base. Users post news, stories and entertainment cards, Sola takes care of the rest.”
The platforms, explains The Merkle, uses Action Points, or a Sola internal virtual currency which does not have monetary value until someone endorses or comments on content. This is when Action Points are converted into to SOL tokens.
“SOL is a utility token with a monetary function that powers the Sola economy,” co-founder and CEO Ilya Zudin explained in an interview to ICO Alert. “It allows us to share revenue from advertising, user payments, and partnerships with users, providing a strong financial incentive to use our service and create quality content.”
He added, “Being a cryptocurrency, SOL can be used in Sola ecosystem to purchase services and also be used external to the Sola platform, too. It allows every user to participate and make money, not just the known entertainers and influencers.”
The platform uses different methods to validate skills in a simple and objective way, including decentralized consensus, where examples of skill are judged anonymously by random other users. It also uses AI-based systems like chat bots for automated real-time validation.
Unlike traditional social media platforms, where users can make any claim about themselves which are often taken as the truth, Indorse verifies and validates the claim, and rewards users for endorsing the skill sets of others — a process the startup has coined as ‘indorsing’, as Singapore Business Review explains. To do this, a user has to attach a proof for other members to verify every claim they make on Indorse.
“If someone is an expert in NodeJS, they put up a claim and attach proof such as their GitHub repos,” said David Moskowitz, co-founder and CEO at Indorse. “Other members in the same domain on Indorse verify it. Based on the consensus, the claim is either ‘indorsed’ or flagged.”
According to their website, users are rewarded for their activity on the platform with IND tokens. These tokens can later be traded or used on the platform to purchase services like advertising, or company pages with validated connections.
onG.social (ong.social) is a blockchain-based social dashboard that provides ease of control for both central-decentralized social media networks and that also supports community building and social interaction with cryptocurrency rewards. It runs on two blockchains, Ethereum and Wavesplatform.
“The blockchain is transforming social media through censorship resistant, global ledger technology that puts each person in control of their data and monetization without the requirement of top down control,” founder and CEO Christopher J Kramer explained to Cointelegraph.
Ong.social “brings all social networks of an individual to one place,” states the company. “In other words, an individual’s content can be distributed to all of their networks through the onG network at the same time. onG goes a step further by monetizing the efforts of participants within the network. Unlike traditional systems where content creators have to scout for advertisers, the onG network technically ‘lends’ advertisers to content owners.”
Ong explains that posts are also validated by measuring the global impact of a submission and verified truth through community consensus, a system that — they say — motivate the public to generate more quality content in order to eliminate fake news.
PROPS Project (propsproject.com) hosts the Rize beta app, launched publicly in February from the popular live streaming app YouNow and already attracting thousands of new users to the platform each day. According to the company, social media stars like Casey Neistat and Phil DeFranco have been broadcasting regularly.
The platform enables every user to engage real-time and gain upvote curation power, content trending boosts, and status for their contributions to the growth of the network.
“Meanwhile, we’re working to bring more content to Rize, further open the platform to developers, and add apps and use cases to the PROPS Ecosystem,” states the company in a Medium post. “We look forward to growing the PROPS user base and seeing more apps launch on the network over the coming months.”
According to WIRED, the crypto project is critical to YouNow’s survival,as the company has faced steep competition from the likes of YouTube Live, Periscope and Instagram Live. “We asked ourselves, how can we leverage our strengths and what would the next generation of social video look like?” says CEO Adi Sideman. Sideman says the crypto project is critical to YouNow’s survival, even though the platform has turned a profit continues to grow.
As social media networks are trying to empower blockchain, according to Forbes, “one of the most popular attempts is by an existing incumbent in the space, Kik.” The teen chat app has recently launched a cryptocurrency called Kin and raised just under $100 million in an ICO (Initial Coin Offering).
“Kin is designed to offer incentives to developers and network contributors for bringing digital services, applications, and other value adds to the network, sans any middlemen,” Sunny Dhillon, a partner at Signia Venture Partners, writes in Forbes. “The long-term vision is to curate an in-app marketplace where brands can advertise directly to users via chat (e.g., access to VIP groups, coupons) and collect payment, while users can sell services to other users on the app.”
“We believe there is an opportunity to fundamentally change how digital services are built, used and monetized,” Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston said in a blog post here on Medium back in August. And to make that possible, the company wants to make Kin “the ideal compensation tool for a digital sharing economy of equal opportunity [… by] securing partners that can help us integrate Kin into as many high-engagement communities as possible,” said Dany Fishel, EVP Partnership at Kin.