Social media is arguably the most popular use case of the internet today. It is estimated that by 2025, more than 4.4 billion people will be actively engaging with social media platforms. Traditionally, these platforms have been run by a central entity, which retains control of all user data that crosses their sites. These have raised issues, majorly around privacy and security of user data, as well as the control exercised by these governing entities on the users of their platforms.
Social media moves on-chain
As a solution to concerns raised regarding centralized social networks, developers have begun moving these apps onto blockchains. These chains are smart contract enabled, which supports the development of dApps on their network. These social media dApps store their data on the numerous decentralized servers that make up the blockchain. This way, nobody retains control over everyone’s data. Additionally, interactions are end-to-end encrypted, which ensures their privacy.
Benefits of decentralizing social media
- Eliminates user commodification
In centralized social media, the advertisers are the clients, which makes the users the product. Social media companies have been known to sell user data to these advertisers to help in targeted marketing. For instance, you could look up a certain household item on Amazon, and suddenly, your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the likes will show numerous ads of the same product. To solve this issue, blockchain social media uses peer-to-peer encryption to ensure your data cannot be leaked to third parties.
- Promotes users’ freedom of expression
In centralized social media, every interaction you make on these sites can be accessed by the people that own the platform. This means they have the power to censor content or use it for political gain. During the last American election, Twitter made headlines after censoring former POTUS Donald Trump’s tweets. Regardless of their reasons for the ban, this was a direct infringement on his freedom of speech and expression. With decentralization, nobody can censor, delete or otherwise edit the content that is posted.
- Helps facilitate easier crowdfunding
Usually, blockchains have a native crypto token that is used to make payments on the network. By hosting social media platforms on a blockchain, content creators will be rewarded for posting on these networks. What’s more, users can easily crowdfund for projects in processes akin to holding token sales. Users can also easily send payments to each other using the native token.
Top decentralized social networks
Launched in 2018, this is a microblogging Twitter-like platform that is hosted on the Ethereum blockchain. It stores user data on this popular chain and IPFS. You do not need an intermediary to post or access data, as it is built around transparency. You also can’t delete or edit content once it is posted. There is also none of the annoying spam ad pop-ups common on most sites today. What’s more, content creators can be tipped in crypto, allowing them to earn from their content. Peepeth can also interact with other smart contracts to provide a wide range of decentralized services.
This is another decentralized social media platform built on the Ethereum chain. It is touted as part of the Web3 revolution, thanks to its mission of putting users back in control of their data. Users post content, and if the larger community is consensus that the content is true, they are rewarded SPN tokens. They can utilize it to make payments on the platform or purchase items on its marketplace, or they could stake it for passive rewards. SPN tokens can also be won by voting on posts and commenting on other posts.
This is a decentralized networking platform that is comprised of several self-sufficient nodes called pods. Users can join and interact with any pods they choose or even host one themselves. Once there, they can follow hashtags just like with the popular centralized platforms. Diaspora’s model is centered around three factors:
The network runs on decentralized servers called pods. This ensures that all its data is not stored in any single central server.
- Privacy and freedom of expression.
Users of Diaspora can choose to either reveal or hide their true identities on the platform. They can also disclose private information if they so wish. Interactions between users are also not censored, and anyone can express themselves freely on the platform.
- User-controlled data
Through its Aspect feature, users have total control over their data, and only they can choose whether or not to share it. The terms and conditions for joining the platform do not compel users to sign over their data rights, as is common in most traditional social media platforms.
Hosted on the Steem blockchain, this is a decentralized networking site that resembles Facebook and Reddit. Users post content on Steemit, and depending on the engagement and upvotes of their content invites, they are rewarded smart media tokens (SMT). The platform boasts a transaction throughput of 6 million TPS, far exceeding that of Bitcoin and Ethereum. If you’re a content creator looking to earn from your craft, then Steemit is the ideal platform for you.
Hosted on Ethereum, this is a popular networking site that resembles LinkedIn and has a few elements similar to Instagram. On it, users can verify their skills and credentials through its indorsements system. Rewards are doled out in its native token, IND. Users can also stake IND for passive rewards and participate in the platform’s governance through its DAO.
Centralized social media, for all its attractive features, has raised numerous concerns around privacy and the commodification of user data. The issue is that users are made aware of the data harvesting when signing up, which means not much can be done legally to stop this malicious practice. As a solution, moving social media platforms on-chain helps decentralize user data, which comes with a lot more freedom of expression and privacy.