Episode 24 – Can We Decentralize Social Media?

Watch 8 min

It surrounds us and penetrates uxws, it binds the Internet together. No, not the Force…

You’re on it right now. It’s everywhere. And it’s not too much of a leap to say that in the two decades since it exploded into our lives it’s pretty much changed the world.

But social media is about to evolve, on a fundamental level – shifting the power from billionaires in Silicon Valley to YOU. Yes, YOU. And me. And everyone else.

How? Well stick around and I’ll give you a vision for the future that puts democracy back on the menu.

Welcome to School of Block.

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Whatever your feelings about the SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS out there at the moment, there’s no question that they have made many POSITIVE changes and created OPPORTUNITIES around the world.

The last fifteen years in particular have seen a degree of CONNECTIVITY and INTERACTION at scale that was previously unimaginable.

The platforms now dominating the landscape have UNITED CULTURES, OVERTHROWN DICTATORSHIPS and brought FAMILIES and FRIENDS CLOSER together than they ever were before.

Imagine this pandemic had happened at the end of the 20th century – a world without social media… and just how ISOLATED so many people would be.

Food for thought isn’t it?

But of course, social media platforms haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory the last 18 months – MISINFORMATION for one being just the tip of the iceberg.

The thing is – the giants out there right now, without naming names, are all CENTRALIZED.

And that brings with it a number of problems:

They share a massive LACK of TRANSPARENCY.
And a huge ASYMMETRY of INFORMATION.
There’s no shortage of MANIPULATION – in both directions. Need we mention the company that rhymes with Ramebridge Spanalytica?
Between the current platforms there’s a thumping degree of DIGITAL COLONIALISM. What’s that? Well, the social media giants aren’t just centralized in themselves – they’re all based across a few square miles in California. So a handful of extremely rich nerds in Silicon Valley basically determine who gets to say what, all around the WORLD.
And to that we can add DIGITAL FEUDALISM. Where a relatively small class of LORDS use a variety of subtle and overt political and economic systems to extract value from the daily lives of the PEASANTS. Yes, that platform you habitually doom scroll on is the FEUDAL LORD, and you, sir, are the PEASANT being milked for your data.

And that brings us to the old chestnut of – if you’re not paying, YOU are the product.

Which isn’t really ideal is it?

BUT…

For social media platforms to work, we need someone to rely on to provide the services, develop the updates, innovations, manage content moderation and security.

So what’s the solution?

Yep, you guessed it… BLOCKCHAIN.

In episodes 22 and 23 we introduced the concepts of SOCIAL TOKENS and DAOs, and with them the idea of DECENTRALIZED SOCIAL MEDIA.

DECENTRALIZED SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS

So how do these decentralized platforms work? How do they improve on the current model?

Well, decentralized networks are completely TRANSPARENT with open source code. No hidden algorithms that everyone tries to game.

And along with that, CONTROL of the platform is also decentralized. No company, government or individual is responsible for calling all the shots.

Decision making is DEMOCRATIC – where every voice counts equally.

And the same is true for the DISTRIBUTION of the PIE. Equitable is the word of choice here.

Imagine a world where YOU own your own data, your own posts… And can MONETISE the content you generate, the clicks you make or the attention you give.

This is the CREATOR ECONOMY.

And, for any one of the current monsters of social, there’s already an equivalent decentralized contender.

We mentioned BITCLOUT in episode 22. Essentially a platform for influencers to monetize their followings – built on an incentive based system designed to reward coin owners for their followers’ attention.

And then there’s KARMA…decentralized social media designed to incentivise people to do good things and receive Karma for doing so.

MASTODON has microblogging features similar to what we see on Twitter, offered by a large number of independently run NODES, each node having its own rules, codes of conduct and so on.

And AAVE, mentioned in our DeFi deep dive in Episode 13 – is soon to be launching another decentralized alternative to Twitter on the Ethereum blockchain, where users will be able to monetize their posts.

THE PRACTICALITIES

But how would complex issues like CONTENT MODERATION work on these kind of networks? Well, protocols like KLEROS might have the answer.

Essentially a decentralized arbitration service, it has the potential for individuals to up or down vote content and be rewarded for those votes depending on what the arbitration panel – made of independent jurors – think in the case of any arbitration.

Basically it provides an incentive led system where those who try to game it lose out and those who are constructive are rewarded – and in the process the ‘good’ content rises to the top and the spam gets the boot.

DAO design and action at its best.

And what about SECURITY? Well, centralized platforms haven’t always had the best experiences with that – they are a target for hackers, and do you even trust the platforms themselves with what they do with your data?

Whereas your data and the network itself on decentralized networks is protected by the cryptographic nature of the blockchain itself – I know which I have more faith in.

But what about INNOVATION? Well, innovating around a problem is not as simple as just creating a new technology. The social context in which these alternatives are produced can make a massive difference to whether it’s able to take root.

Just look at Apple’s battles with Epic Games over Fortnite’s revenue, or the Google Play Store threatening Mastodon with delisting.

It’s a tricky landscape out there for these new projects to put down roots. There’s no question that all the INGREDIENTS are there for DECENTRALIZED SOCIAL MEDIA to take off – what’s missing so far is the right combination of RELEVANCE, EASE OF USE, and NETWORK EFFECTS.

But, with the amount of attention and VC capital heading in this direction, it’s only a matter of time.

CONCLUSION

We all know what happened to VHS. And Laserdisc. And DVD. The old guard are going to need to EVOLVE or DIE.

And they’re trying – with Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO recently announcing a decentralized business venture and Facebook making moves too.

But it’s in OUR hands what the future of social media is going to look like. A wretched hive of scum and villainy… or something better? A place where the feudal lords get their comeuppance and the peasants share the wealth. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Speaking of which, next time we’re going to launch ourselves headfirst into the METAVERSE, and go on a journey into the future of social. Work, rest and play – the Metaverse really does have it all. Social Media won’t ever be the same.

You’ve been watching School of Block, presented by Ledger and the Defiant, demystifying decentralisation, one block at a time. Don’t forget to subscribe, drop us a like if that’s what you’re into, and as always – here’s to your financial freedom.”


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