Web3-savvy users and crypto investors already know about the power of decentralization, but what if this feature could provide a narrative with the power to attract more than four billion social media users to a decentralized, web3-native, blockchain-powered, and censor-free ecosystem?
This powerful, yet simple narrative goes as follows: “Own your content.”
Which one of you didn’t hear about public figures being de-platformed (read: banned) from traditional social media (TradSo) platforms? One of the infamous examples from recent history might be Andrew Tate, who got banned from YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram altogether in a matter of days.
Surely, the quality and worthiness of his content are subject to dispute, to say the least, but it shines the light on a deep-rooted issue that is inherent to all big names of social media today. And we are not only talking about the prominent total bans, as there are way more subtle ways to skew the feed as the platforms can make sure specific content doesn’t get distributed at all, and thus, shadow-banning certain creators and topics.
The elephant in the room
The issues are based on the misconception of users see themselves as the customers of social media platforms, which can’t be further from the truth. With TradSo, the user is not the customer, he is the commodity. The customers are the companies who are spending billions of dollars every year, so Facebook, Twitter, and their likes can show ads to respective target audiences. For you to get an idea of how big this business already is, worldwide social media advertising spending accounted for around 115 bn USD in 2021, with a projection of doubling that amount by 2027.
In the good old logic of “Customer is King,” business decisions are made in favor of the ones who are paying. And if big ad money spenders decide they don’t want their precious ads appearing next to unsavory content, they are the ones with the threat potential as they could take their business elsewhere.
So, TradSo is first and foremost determined to keep their customers, the ones who are paying them, happy. After that, there will be users, who are the ones whose attention is marketed to the advertising companies. The user trades a free account and free usage of the platform against the full custody of his content, his social connections, his identity, and his reputation on said platform. If one day the user decides to start new on Instagram, there is no way for him to transfer his followers and his content from Facebook to his new Insta profile. The user will start from scratch, putting new content on the platform, gaining new followers, and make name for himself from zero.
We all accepted this model as somehow given, but just take a moment to visualize how ridiculous it actually is: Imagine you have a checking account with a certain brick-and-mortar bank in your hometown. Transfers and account maintenance are free, but the catch is you can only wire transfers to people who also happen to be customers of said bank. Also, you could just buy with your credit card at retail stores that are also customers of this bank. All of this while living under the constant threat of your bank suspending your account and withholding your assets for good.
Nobody would consider using such a banking service, yet, if all of your favorite retail online shops, grocery stores, and all of your friends and family are using this bank, you would be able to work around this issue and make your everyday life work. Sounds weird, but this is the logic we all happily accept when dealing with today’s social media behemoths like FB, Insta, and Twitter.
As the foundation of Bitcoin was an answer to the 2008 financial crisis and the harmful centralization in the banking system, decentralized social might just be the next big narrative to unlock web3 to a broad audience of billions of users.
The word around decentralized social media got some traction of late, as personal communication between Twitter’s co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey and big-shot entrepreneur Elon Musk was revealed as part of the evidence in the law case around Elon stepping back from buying Twitter. Also, Jack himself announced the launch of his decentralized social tool called BlueSky, which is currently in closed beta.
What was missed in the public discussion is that there is already a lively ecosystem built upon the DESO blockchain. DESO stands for Decentralized Social and provides a layer-one blockchain capable of storing storage- and state-heavy interactions for social media in a decentralized and immutable matter. In March 2021, the first app on this blockchain, BitClout, was opened to the public as a proof-of-concept by the devs to let people experience the functionality and value of this platform.
The absolute beauty of this approach is as follows: Every piece of content, every follow, like, and repost is stored immutably on the open-source DESO blockchain. This means that every developer can host a DESO node of their own and immediately gets access to vast amounts of content to build around. Find below a selection of platforms that already emerged and are available for the public:
When building on the existing content on the DESO blockchain, every developer can curate the content around a certain topic or a specified functionality, so different approaches like a decentralized LinkedIn and decentralized OpenSea are up and running. The user base, social graphs, and content they are using are actually the same, but by providing a unique UX/UI, they are delivering specific value to their respective audiences.
Surely these platforms are curating the content that is existing and freshly created and thus, are influencing the feeds, but that is a feature rather than a bug: As the blockchain and API are open-source, anyone in the world can run their own DeSo node with its own characteristic angle and feed and compete with the existing platforms right from the get-go, as the content database is free for all. We might witness the foundation of platforms that are focused on sports, political news, or science. Everything is possible with an open-source blockchain.
Which problems does decentralized social media solve?
First and foremost, decentralized social gets rid of the ad-driven revenue model which infected the existing social media ecosystem. As users can pay their favorite creators directly via native network tokens and app runners (devs) can earn via transaction fees and subscription models, there is no need to let corporate ads into the system.
Second, no one can ever be de-platformed or shadow-banned anymore, as DESO is open-source and immutable. Even in case a specific app decided to blacklist a specific user or decides to not curate his content anymore, the user can take his content, social graph, and funds with them to the next platform that might suit his style and content type better. This can’t be stressed enough, as nobody in the ecosystem has the power to take content away from the creator as all of it is stored on an immutable blockchain.
Third, the competition between platforms and apps is only about the UX/UI and use case they are providing to their audience and creators. Gone are the times when the biggest network took it all, fostering centralization and gated communities.
Decentralized social media has an appealing in-built narrative which is called “own your content.” As the social media market already amassed billions of users, this narrative has the power to attract a broader audience that is not originally from the crypto or web3 space by providing known already familiar features with a little crypto twist. As the financial narrative clearly failed to achieve mainstream adoption for crypto, decentralized social might even have a shot at being the narrative that incinerates the next bull market.