Your Guide to the Web3 Social Graph: Value, Current Protocols, and Where it's Headingby@zkbase
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1,496 reads

Your Guide to the Web3 Social Graph: Value, Current Protocols, and Where it's Heading

by ZKBaseAugust 11th, 2022
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A social graph is a mapping of social relationships between individuals. It reflects the people and their interactions through various channels: family members, colleagues, classmates and so on. Currently, the social graph has become the core value of every social platform. The core profit model of most Web 2.0 applications is to obtain users and their data by providing free services to users and then to obtain advertising payment from companies targeting the users. Users' social behavior creates value for the platform, but the value will not be distributed to the users but the company.

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1. The Social Graph and it’s Value

A social graph is a mapping of social relationships between individuals. It reflects the people and their interactions through various channels: family members, colleagues, classmates and so on, which can be taken as far as being a social graph of all internet users. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg repopularized the concept of the social graph at the inaugural Facebook F8 developer conference, when it was used to explain how the newly launched Facebook platform would provide a friendlier web experience leveraging the relationships between individuals. This also extended to the concept of facebook utilizing it’s position and being used outside the Facebook platform, think using facebook account for login and verification on other platforms.

Currently, the social graph has become the core value of every social platform. When users register and log in on a social platform, the platform will search for people they may know based on the registration information, learn about their preferences by recommending topics they are interested in and record all the contents they have browsed on this platform and their interaction with others, based on which a user-centric social graph will be formed. That is to say, this map will contain their interpersonal relationships, interests, living habits and so on, according to which the platform can roughly outline their user portraits.

So, what's the usage of it? Let’s first look at a set of data.

This is the total revenues from the financial report of Facebook released in Q3 2021. According to the report, Facebook’s total revenue in the past year was about US$209 billion, of which advertising revenue was US$205 billion, accounting for more than 90%. This highlights the fact that the core profit model of most Web 2.0 applications is to obtain users and their data by providing free services to users, and then to obtain advertising payment from companies targeting the users. Taking Facebook as an example, personalized advertisement recommendation and content recommendation can bring hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue every year, which are in fact realized by using user behavior data to do highly targeted marketing and use it as a bargaining chip toward advertisers.

2. The Pain Points of Web 2.0 Social Graph

Since the characteristic of  Web 2.0 applications architecture is storing all data in centralized databases, the social graph data formed by each user on the social platform is controlled by the company to which the platform belongs. As that was not enough, users also need to sign the "User Service Agreement" and "Privacy Policy" when they register an account on a social platform or application. This means that they are forced to agree that the ownership of their data belongs to the platform, and that even the right of interpretation belongs to the platform which creates  the risk for individuals of being banned because of some arbitrary opinion that a certain voiced remark is seen as inappropriate. Therefore, users' social behavior and actions creates value for the platform, but the value will not be distributed to the users but the company. What the users all have is the right to utilize the product as a social tool which has become a necessity in modern society.

The platform constantly monitors all behavioral traces of users and collects user data. Large amounts of data may not even be collected with a specific purpose. With the maturity of big data technology, a significant drawback is that privacy data leakage incidents occur frequently with high potential to  cause serious social and societal problems. A large number of fraud cases in areas such as pension, medical care, and charity are all caused by information leakage. Maybe the biggest contemporary example is the user information of Facebook that was leaked and exploited by the data company Cambridge Analytica. Data about users political leanings was used for targeting on a big scale and Facebook has faced multiple lawsuits for violating user data privacy. Such a leak is a great example of the risk not only to the user but to our societies.

In the web 2.0 world, a specific platform's user data is like isolated islands with difficulty communicating with  other “data islands”, creating strong lock-in effects. The social giants also spend huge sums of money to create further data isolation in order to retain users and increase user stickiness. Therefore, when a user jumps to another application, they are forced to abandon the social graphs that they have already built. Every time users register a new social account, they need to repeatedly authenticate their identity information and re-build their social network from scratch on the new platform, so the migration cost is very high.

3. Exploring the Web 3.0 Social Graph

The purpose of Web 3.0 projects is to return data ownership to users. By utilizing the blockchain and on-chain identity as the core of a user, data would become user-controlled on not platform specific which is the main difference with the promise of a web 3.0 social graph ecosystem. In practice this means firstly that monetization potential of user data and activity is returned to the user by taking away the ownership and control from the platforms and applications. Secondly, it would remove any data barriers and thresholds between platforms as the user identity with all on-chain history is free to move to other platforms if the user so wishes. By this the fundamental value and business model for web 2.0 platforms are removed and a new web 3.0 based value system can start to take shape. And maybe most importantly passive users are now elevated to active creators of their own data and activity within the social graph.

In web 3.0, user data is very transparent throughout the blockchain technology. Information such as amounts, the transactions you have made, and what DeFi projects you have participated in are publicly available in the wallet address. An address can log in to countless applications, and the behaviors occurring in each application are clearly recorded. By mining and analyzing these data, the user portrait of each address can be completely depicted. The social graph protocol is to organize and present users' on-chain portraits and behaviors in different ways. The potential of this is huge but transparency of sometimes very private data could naturally provide a challenge for the industry.

3.1. Lens Protocol

Developed by the Aave team, Lens Protocol is a web 3.0 social graph protocol built on the Polygon smart contract platform. The project advocates allowing creators to have their own connections with the community, forming a permissionless, composable and user-owned social graph.

Lens protocol’s main functionality is the concept of a [Profile NFT] which is the key for users to control their own data ownership. The profile NFT metadata includes all user-generated posts, mirrored articles, comments, and other behavioral history. When users log in to an application based on the Lens protocol, it can synchronize all the data in the Profile NFT and obtain the on-chain behavior traces of users. Users can also transfer the NFT if they change the address.

Users connect to Lens protocol and create the home page by using wallets, and the home page will be minted as Profile NFT. Only users holding Profile NFT can create contents and post, comment, and mirror. Other users without Profile NFT can only follow their favorite bloggers and collect what they have posted.

User classification within the Lens protocol is as follows.

  • Content creators must link the protocol and create a personal Profile homepage to obtain Profile NFT accordingly in order to post, mirror and comment;
  • Non-content creators can only follow their favorite bloggers and collect their posts. When users follow a content creator, they will get a Follow NFT, which records the order and number of users' followers. However, content creators can set whether followers can get Follow NFT, such as paying or completing certain tasks. When users collect a creator’s content, they will get a Collect NFT that records which fans have collected or purchased what content.
  • Developers customize the modular components provided and build social products, so Lens is more like a back-end product

Lens protocol basic module

Lens has not been opened to all the public currently. Only some addresses are eligible to mint Profile NFT, with the total profiles of 44,525 and the total posts of 93,335. Other data is shown in the figure below.

There are 9 applications built based on the Lens protocol, with no ETH having been issued yet.

Lens Protocol Features

1. Tokenization of content and data ownership: with NFT as the core to build relationships, the interaction of multiple NFTs presents social behaviors such as following, mirroring, and collecting, forming a social graph. Users can independently control the ownership of these NFTs, such as transferring, selling, participating in governance, or bringing them to any application built based on the Lens protocol. The data migration is more advantageous.

2. Component modularity and super composability: The social function is modularized, and the whitelist smart contract can be called in specific execution steps. For example, the [Follow smart contract] will be triggered when users follow the profile, and the [Collect smart contract] will be triggered when users like or favorite contents. It allows developers to build their own applications in Lens by using these modular components provided.


  1. Every step of the operation requires the signature verification of the wallet address when using the Lens protocol, which brings some troubles especially for social applications that are frequently used: first, the users' following, commenting, collecting and other operations need to be paid, so Lens chooses to be based on Polygon, which makes the use process not smooth enough although the gas fee is relatively low; moreover, users need to constantly confirm the wallet address, which also greatly affects the user experience.
  2. The user's social graph on Lens is built based on the personal homepage NFT, so the establishment of social relations is completely from scratch, which is still relatively difficult.
  3. Applications built based on the Lens protocol can share user data, but developers still need to capture the on-chain data themselves, and then restore it using the database, which also requires a certain cost.

3.2. CyberConnect

Founded in September 2021, Cyber Connect protocol is the first decentralized social graph protocol, which received $10 million in financing from Multicoin Capital, Sky9 Capital, Animoca Brands and other institutions in November.

The social module of CyberConnect is relatively simple, mainly composed of [Follow Button] and [Followers List]. Users can follow each other through the Follow button to establish relationships between them. The core of the protocol is decentralized and tamper-proof social contacts, which can effectively promote the user-centric data creation, update, query and verification. Its technical architecture focuses on three aspects.

  1. Storage - adopting the IPFS variable data stream customized by Ceramic to realize the decentralized storage and data update functions of the graph;

  2. Identity authentication and authorization - designing a set of security key scheme distinguishing the identity key from the user's transaction key to avoid capital risks;

  3. Data capture - Data index aggregates on-chain and off-chain data.

There are three aspects of data sources of CyberConnect: firstly, the data from off-chain data sources and transaction data sources are captured, organized and integrated; secondly, the index forms new data according to the existing off-chain social graphs; in addition, the data of the users” social graphs on DApps will also be captured by CyberConnect after users authorize to use CyberConnect to log in on DApps. Therefore, CyberConnect forms social graphs on Web3 by combining existing social graph data.

CyberConnect supports address binding on the two chains of Ether and Solana (BSC chain is not counted), with users of 1.49 million and index users of 1.89 million. Cyber Connect is developing in the direction of multi-chain. In addition, the protocol has also carried out ecological application incubation. At present, more than 30 projects have been supported in the ecosystem, covering social networking, NFT, decentralized identity, wallet and so on.

CyberConnect Protocol Features

  1. CyberConnect is a multi-chain, multi-platform social graph protocol, which will automatically associate users' Opensea, Mirror and other accounts, focusing on providing infrastructure integration services for developers of different applications, so as to make these applications efficiently and quickly adopt the social graph data of CyberConnect.
  2. CyberConnect solves the problem of user social data ownership with a centralized storage technology solution, which is more conducive to storing large data, and the creation and modification of data will be relatively more convenient.


  1. Functions CyberConnect currently can provide are limited, and the cost-free reading and writing of social graphs also makes it easy to generate redundant data in the protocol.
  2. CyberConnect adopts the Ceramic storage solution, which once caused Ceramic downtime due to the influx of users and whose high concurrency solution needs to be tested.

3.3. 5Degrees

5Degrees is a social graph protocol incubated by TokenPocket wallet, which is constructed according to the ERC-1155 and generates Profile NFT by the core data of users (i.e., the user relations such as the follow address list), thus forming a social relationship network infrastructure.

The implementation of 5Degrees protocol is largely similar to Lens that runs around Profile NFT and provides basic social function modules. However, the protocol only provides the [Follow] function. Users can obtain the creator's personal NFT when they follow the creator, i.e., Follow NFT.

At present, 5Degrees has launched the personal homepage product Fans3.0. After connecting the wallet, users can enter the personal homepage, which will directly display all the assets in the users' wallet addresses, including NFT, POAP, and interaction DeFi protocols and identity authentication protocol.

In addition, there are Uniswap and PancakeSwap after the addition of social modules, where all users can intuitively obtain detailed transaction data of the people they follow.

5proDegrees Protocol Features & Limitations

  1. The implementation principle of the 5Degrees protocol is largely similar to Lens, but the functions it provides are relatively less, which still has a certain distance from establishing social graphs.
  2. Allow the access of other applications, and any project supporting the ERC-1155 can integrate this protocol.

The above are the most representative projects of the social graph protocol. At present, there are mainly two ways to realize the social graph protocol: one is to NFT the user data, and the other is to adopt decentralized storage technology solutions. The advantage of the former is to directly transform user data into NFT assets without more complex encryption technology, while the latter is more conducive to the storage of big data, and data changes are more convenient.


From bottom to top, the current Web 3.0 social ecology can be roughly divided into the bottom public chain application carrier, the decentralized data repository, the decentralized identity layer presenting on-chain user identities and relations, and the upper social applications and tools and plugins for user portals. Among them, the social graph is both the capture and data accumulation of the relationship between on-chain users and an important component to build the Web 3.0 decentralized identity infrastructure.

However, the construction of the current decentralized social identity level has not been perfect, which is still in the early stage due to problems such as technical thresholds and application promotion. No one knows what Web 3.0 will be like in the future and most Web 3.0 users don't know what they want, but there is no doubt that cultivating users' decentralized identity is very important, however, the process of which will certainly not happen overnight. As Foresight said, the accumulation of high-quality relations and network effects must reach a critical point in order for a qualitative change, and we will always remain optimistic about this!


  4. " Research Series on Web3| China Academy of Information and Communications Technology: CyberConnect - A Social Graph Protocol That Returns Social Data Ownership to Users "