For some years now, attempts have been made to decentralize social networks in different ways, including the blockchain. The goal has always been to change the balance in favour of the user by changing business models. Until now, our habits and data have been the engine driving the development of platforms. Data that has also brought great power to the people at the top of these companies.
Traditional models such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, base their success on the customer’s relationship with their servers.
Decentralization of Social Networks
The effort to move to a peer to peer (p2p) social network model is to exclude the central server from the equation, this goal has been pursued outside the blockchain world.
The p2p attempts so far are unlikely to be globally successful due to some issues:
- Disproportionate consumption of resources on the device;
- Absence of features related to global network counting such as “likes”;
- Difficulty in implementing “modify” or “delete” post functions.
Examples include the projects of secure-scuttlebutt – patchwork – manyverse – planetary.
Some of these projects have involved federated networks, however, different issues arose, including:
- Servers depending on the administrators that represent a point of centralization where risks are present;
- Not encrypting messages and therefore the identity is put at risk with the due consequences on the privacy of the data.
These include the examples of ActivityPub, GNU social, Diaspora.
The slow evolution of these protocols is mainly due to the difficulties in finding sustainable business models. Without access to donations or venture capital, none of the cases seen to date has found profitable models.
Centralized applications are easier to build and monetize because they are based on the intermediation of those who control their storage.
The use of blockchain in Social Networks
Blockchains by their nature are slower and inefficient compared to a centralized database, the distributed network has complex behaviours to guarantee a trustless operation.
Consequently, immutability and global consensus make protocols inefficient. For some types of social services, however, these characteristics are fundamental. We are used to seeing blocked profiles and deleted or censored messages. Often messages of which the user is no longer convinced undergo changes or removal. These actions are not always welcome in certain contexts.
Reducing advertising is also a very important aspect of the user’s needs, creating business models that do not need to be converted into promotional activities is one way to go, removing the intermediary in the management of payments is just as important.
There are many companies that are experimenting with blockchain protocols in the field of social networks. Thanks to the possibilities of guaranteeing the immutability of the data entered and the micropayments market, several projects have been developed:
- Steem/Steemit – (its blockchain) – Posts similar to Medium;
- Dtube – (Steem blockchain) – YouTube without Ads;
- Sapien – (Ethereum blockchain) – social media platform;
- Memo – (Bitcoin cash) – similar to Twitter;
- Twetch – (Bitcoin SV) – similar to Twitter;
- Streamanity – (Bitcoin SV) – YouTube without Ads;
- Peepeth – (Ethereum blockchain) – permanent Twitter;
- Dlive – (Steem blockchain) – Twitch-like streaming service without Ads;
- Minds – (Ethereum blockchain) – alternative to Facebook;
- Zbay – (Zcash) – anonymous messaging.
Many of these services use IPFS for storage and cryptographic data access systems. While others use the blockchain only as a system of remuneration and payment associated with the creation or use of content.
For Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin SV, the Op_Return function allows data to be stored on the blockchain. This function had been excluded from the code by Bitcoin BTC’s core team in order to avoid this approach, considered improper by the team leading Bitcoin’s most popular client.
Protected identity and the ability to monetize content creation work are features that are highly appreciated by users.
The narrative of the “unstoppable applications” so dear to Ethereum has collided with the reality of the technical difficulties of managing a real peer to peer network without running into problems of interface and usability.
A successful scaling and protected and decentralized data storage methods that do not weigh too much on the user experience are the goal in every sector related to the blockchain, hence also in this one.
What drives the user
The creation of communities incentivized by the token economy often leads to the creation of content for extrinsic reasons compared to the more traditional media used more for intrinsic reasons.
Conveying all actions towards token appreciation or monetization of content leads to too much focus on the numbers and usefulness of the platforms themselves. The fact remains that as the size of these cryptocurrency communities increases, the user base develops and absorbs the habits and narrative related to the use of alternative tools.
This could lead to the emergence of some platforms that are better developed and capable of achieving mass adoption.