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Examining Social Network Design In The Context Of Web3by@penworth
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Examining Social Network Design In The Context Of Web3

by Olayimika Oyebanji May 17th, 2024
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This article explores the fundamental issues discussed by crypto researcher Yinghao Lin in his work “UXLINK: Navigating Dualities With Equilibrium”.
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The emergence of web3, a decentralized iteration of the internet, is set to alter the social interaction landscape by introducing new paradigms to how individuals connect and interact. This article explores the fundamental issues discussed by crypto researcher Yinghao Lin in his work “UXLINK: Navigating Dualities With Equilibrium”.


Lin explores the fundamental concepts underpinning social network design in web3 by using UXLINK – a popular web3 social platform, as a case study.


To highlight the ongoing efforts to design social networks for the web3 era, he delves into the platform's approach to user experience, network effects, and the integration of core web3 principles like decentralization and tokenization.

Traditional Social Networks and Their Challenges

It is without a doubt to say that social networking platforms have become ubiquitous, fundamentally altering how individuals connect and interact. These legacy platforms leverage network effects, where a platform's value increases daily with each additional user. However,  they are often criticized for:


  • Centralized Control: User data is often owned and controlled by social media platforms, raising concerns about privacy and censorship.
  • Limited User Choice: Algorithmic manipulation and a focus on user engagement can downplay the importance of  genuine social interaction.
  • Excessive Focus on Money: Advertising models have mostly driven these social platforms to prioritize user attention over user well-being.

Web3 and the Promise of Decentralization

Web3 offers a potential solution to these limitations by introducing decentralization – a shift from centralized control to distributed ownership and governance. Core Web3 principles like blockchain technology and tokenization offer:


  • Enhanced Data Ownership: Users can potentially own and control their data, reducing reliance on centralized platforms.
  • Transparency and Immutability: Transactions and data stored on blockchains offer greater transparency and immutability.
  • Incentivized Participation: Tokenization can create economic incentives for user engagement and platform development.

Lin’s Case Study

As a social science researcher interested in these dynamics, LIN used as UXLINK, a social platform focused on building Web3 communities, serves as a case study for examining social network design in this evolving landscape. According to him, UXLINK emphasizes building "Web3-enabled groups," aiming to foster genuine social connections and leverage trusted relationships.

User Experience and Network Effects

Lin’s case study employs a multi-layered product architecture as a native web3 measures to cater to user experience and network effects:


  • Application Layer: This layer facilitates social discovery, participation, and investment within groups, fostering a sense of community.
  • Protocol Layer: This layer provides the underlying social protocols for developers. These protocols may prioritize user ownership of data and enable personalized experiences through AI-driven algorithms.
  • Social Liquidity Layer : This proposed layer aims to establish a user-centric infrastructure for tokenizing social relationships and data assets, facilitating their secure transfer across platforms.

Balancing User Needs And Web3 Integration

Lin’s research highlights the importance of balancing user needs with Web3 integration. His case study focuses on "authentic socialization" , which emphasizes building real-life connections and trust, potentially fostering deeper user engagement compared to traditional social media interactions. Furthermore, it leverages social connections to generate valuable data that personalizes user experiences and strengthens the network.


Lin writes that the fundamental objective of his case study is building “authentic interpersonal relationships that mirror real-life social dynamics”, a radical departure from the  one-sided interactions commonly seen on social media platforms. This emphasis is “on bilateral relationships characterized by communication, collaboration, and cooperation, embodying a shift towards genuine social connections and experiences, coupled with innovation in Web3 fundamentals”.


Furthermore, it is observed that “Interpersonal socialization, particularly with acquaintances, forms the cornerstone of genuine social interaction. Trust, often established through direct or indirect endorsements, is crucial for actions like recommendations and transactions. Moreover, these interpersonal connections naturally evolve from one-on-one interactions to group settings, fostering multidimensional interactions and network effects”.


Lin explained further that in contexts where interactions begin with strangers or occur on social media platforms, UXLINK's group feature facilitates the transition from non-acquaintance to acquaintance relationships, leveraging the potential for expanding network effects.


On the correlation between interpersonal socialization and higher user engagement, Lin stressed that the success of interpersonal socialization hinges on frequency and density. This being self-evident in leading global social platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram which prioritize interpersonal connections, leading to higher user engagement. This is to show that the presence of numerous acquaintances often correlates with increased usage frequency, with high-frequency interactions driving engagement even further.

Assets and Financialization in Web3 Social Networks

On the parts of asset and finance in web3, LIN observes that:


“After this round of bull market, one of the clear signs given by the industry is: one of the core focuses of Web3 is the subtle infiltration of "assets and finance," as well as the catalysis of fragmented speculation, gaming, and profit-seeking behaviors. In other words, assets and finance are the battlegrounds for Web3 applications, and any application must be deeply conceived around assets, finance, and users”


The Super Connector

Lin highlights the rise of similar platforms to be a "super connector," acting as a central hub that connects various stakeholders within the Web3 space. This includes users, developers, infrastructure providers, and applications. He strongly believes that a platform's success in achieving this goal will depend on its ability to foster collaboration and interoperability between these diverse entities.

Critical Considerations: Network Monopolies and Balancing Ideals

The potential for Lin’s case study or similar platforms to establish a dominant position within the Web3 social networking space raises concerns about network monopolies. While the platform may benefit from economies of scale associated with a large user base, it's crucial to consider the potential implications for user choice and innovation.

Balancing Ideals

On the ongoing debate between "purists" and "pragmatists" in the Web3 space, Lin commented as follows:


From an industry observation perspective, the Web3 industry has been progressing along the path of exploring large-scale applications for many years. If we borrow from the "pendulum theory," the pendulum of application developers has been swinging between the "purists" and the "pragmatists."


"Purist" developers prioritize adherence to the core principles of Web3, such as decentralization and data ownership, while pragmatists focus on delivering tangible user benefits. While the purists' applications may align closely with these principles, they sometimes struggle to attract mainstream users who may not prioritize these values in their day-to-day interactions with technology,” he added.


Furthermore, Lin considers his case study’s approach of "embracing both sides" regarding Web3 development – integrating decentralization for developers while prioritizing user experience – highlighting that the success of such a web3 social network will depend on its ability to navigate this ideological divide and create a sustainable and inclusive ecosystem.


Overall, the evolution of the Web3 industry and the ongoing debate between purist and pragmatist approaches highlight the importance of finding a balance between idealism and practicality in innovation.

Conclusion

While Lin’s case study showcases how user experience, trusted connections, and a focus on both decentralization and user benefits are shaping the future of online interaction, the path towards a decentralized future for social networks is not without its challenges.


Concerns linger about the potential for network monopolies and the dominance of financialization over genuine social connection. Additionally, navigating the ideological divide between "purists" who prioritize core decentralization principles and "pragmatists" who focus on user benefits is crucial for creating a sustainable and inclusive ecosystem.


As Web3 continues to evolve, one thing remains clear: the landscape of social networking is undergoing a significant transformation. Whether Web3 ushers in a revolution of user empowerment or simply reshuffles the deck with a new set of problems remains to be seen.


This article provides insights into Yinghao Lin’s “UXLINK: Navigating Dualities With Equilibrium”. It examines how Web3 is reshaping Social Networks.