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Can Social Networks Become Decentralised? by@mishunin

Can Social Networks Become Decentralised?

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Dmitry Mishunin

CEO HashEx

Twitter has recently hired Tess Renearsson – a famous blockchain engineer – to lead a new department at Twitter that will research decentralised technologies and look for ways how Twitter could implement them in its products and infrastructure. Twitter has responded to its users’ rising interest in decentralised technologies and will try to contribute to their development and to make them part of its user experience.

The appointment of Tess Renearsson has caused a stir in Silicon Valley against the backdrop of the growing Web 3.0 initiative of big data companies. Web 3.0 does not contain central points of access and the data is stored non-centrally. Therefore, the services that will be using such technologies will not have ownership of the user data they collect and will not be able to monetise them. On the contrary, the users may start earning from the personal information they provide online, and a share of the revenues from ads can start going to the users directly.

And the founders of such social networks would then profit from the growth of the cryptocurrency of their respective social platforms.

What can decentralised social networks offer?

We have seen some similar initiatives being made in the past, in 2017 and 2018 especially. The two projects that tried to build decentralised social platforms were Steem and Golos.io. Both rewarded the users for quality content in cryptocurrency. They also introduced an authority-weighted system of content rewarding based on the authority of the votes for the content. This was expected to prevent unfair distribution of rewards to content creators, especially through bot votes.

However, people still outwitted the algorithm. Steemit developed a system that could allow the content creators and voters both profit from the growth of popularity of posts on Steemit. The more likes a post amassed, the more profit the early voters and post creators would get in the Steem cryptocurrency. Also, Steemit has syndicates, which are equivalent to communities and groups on different social networks. And ultimately people started creating syndicates and voting collectively as a syndicate to create more profit from their votes. In the end, that broke the fair reward-distribution algorithm.

Golos is a less successful example of a decentralised social network. It is a hardfork of the Steem blockchain with its own Golos Gold (GBG) cryptocurrency. That fact that it cannot be found on any cryptocurrency exchange is telling of its failure. The Golos project team is to blame to a large extent for that. They have made lots of arguable decisions that have arguably done Golos more harm than good. To start with, Golos made 19 hardforks in the first two years of existence, which is appallingly many. And some of the updates raise a lot of controversy like the 19th update, which readjusted reward distribution on the platform, with 25% of the reward from each vote going to content creators and 75% going to the delegates who vote for the content. Few will disagree that this is not right.

So, it will be fair to say that the idea of a blockchain-based social network has not been discredited by these two examples. More likely, it will be fair to say that they have shown that this idea can be sustainable if properly realised.

What to expect in the future?

Seeing demand for decentralised technologies and Web 3.0 picking up, I find it logical that social platforms are being pushed towards exploring the possibilities that Web 3.0 can offer. After all, we people are the cornerstone component for social networks, and if a new social trend is forming there is no way that social networks could stay aside from it if they want to keep their positions.

The DeFi and NFT craze of 2020 and 2021 have shown rapidly growing interest for decentralised technology. On top of that, the ability to participate on social networks without giving away your personal data, such as emails and phone numbers, and having your personal data to yourself and being able to profit from sharing them is something that more than likely is going to be a big thing in our age of omnipresent digital watch. And those who manage to get it right and make it count are more than likely to stay on top of the competition.

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