Blockchain Social Media – Towards User-Controlled Data
Today, virtually everyone is active on social media. According to Statista, in 2017, 81% of the US population had a social media account, while the monthly global user base is expected to reach 3.02 billion by 2021.
As data production from popular social media platforms skyrocketed, so did the instances of data breaches. Against this backdrop, a new form of social networks, namely Blockchain Social Media, is emerging and rapidly expanding to provide better security.
Since most traditional social media platforms are centralized, the emerging decentralized social media platforms promise a different way of data production and control. Most importantly, it enables users to have greater control over their data.
In this insight blog, we would discuss the various aspects of blockchain social networks, including:
- What is Blockchain Social Media?
- Why Decentralized Social Networks?
- The Top Blockchain Social Networks (2020)
- Challenges to Blockchain Implementation in Social Media
What is Blockchain Social Media?
Blockchain Social Media are decentralized platforms built on blockchain technology that allows the development of applications and smart contracts.
These decentralized social media platforms enable end-to-end encryptions for every interaction. Moreover, typical to the Blockchain ecosystems, they usually have features like native currency used for:
- in-platform transactions
- rewarding users
With this basic understanding of blockchain social networks, let us now understand the benefits of implementing it.
Why Decentralized Social Networks?
As we increasingly become aware of the flip-side of the boom in social media usage, we cannot help but focus on two related concerns:
- One, the privacy and security of personal data.
- Two, the consolidation of power in the hands of a few controlling the centralized systems.
Usually, anything related to Blockchains or DLTs is often aimed at decreasing centralized systems’ numerous downsides. The case of social media is also somewhat similar.
So, what significant benefits increase from the interlinking of Blockchain and Social Media? Let’s see.
Blockchain Social Media offers the following three benefits:
- A check on user commodification
- Privacy of freedom and expression
- Scope for crowdfunding
A Check on User Commodification
Presently, data is one of the most profitable assets. Those in control of data can control the mind, behavior and other aspects of the data producer. Moreover, centralized social media platforms are goldmines of personal data.
It is an open secret that the likes of Facebook and Instagram, among others, leverage the user’s data to enable targeted advertisements for their clients. For example, when you browse something on Amazon, the product’s ad pops up on Facebook or Instagram.
Although the technique is applaudable from a marketing perspective, it has grave implications for the user at the receiving end.
Owing to their peer-to-peer network, end-to-end encryption, and the absence of ‘third-parties,’ distributed social media platforms rule out such threats of user commodification. Also, by extension, it imparts the users greater control over their data.
Primarily, this is ensured by the use of Private and Public keys.
Using the private key, the user can initiate a transaction, details of which is stored in a data block on the blockchain. This block is added to the chain only after being verified by the majority consensus of other network members. Consequently, the data is accessible only to the intended recipient.
The information stored in these blocks is in the form of a cryptographic ‘hash.’ These are one-way algorithms, such that a hash can’t be decrypted to get the original information (theoretically).
Each hash is unique and every unique information produces a different hash. Even a small change in information results in a different hash. Hence, the data stored on the blockchain is immutable, resulting in unalterable records.
Privacy and Freedom of Expression
Every interaction on centralized social media, including private messages, is accessible to those in charge of moderating these platforms. Among other things, this poses a severe threat to the users’ privacy.
Moreover, content posted on social media is being used increasingly for political gains and curb dissent. Understandably, this is a significant hindrance to the democratic ideals of freedom of speech and expression.
With its decentralized consensus mechanisms, blockchain social media platforms ensure greater privacy and help realize the users’ right to express freely.
However, such a lack of regulations might pose newer threats. If these decentralized platforms are to match the popularity of the present social media giants, such issues need to be addressed over time.
Scope for Crowdfunding
Apart from non-monetary benefits, blockchain social media also offers materialistic rewards.
Most decentralized social networks reward users (nodes) for posting on their network. Similar to most blockchain ecosystems, such rewards come in the form of the network’s native cryptocurrency.
Moreover, these social media platforms enable users to conduct effective crowdfunding campaigns through processes similar to token sales. Furthermore, they also facilitate user-to-user financial transactions using the native cryptocurrency.
The Top Blockchain Social Networks of 2020
Having discussed the need for decentralized social media platforms instead of the centralized platforms, let us now turn our attention to some of the former’s most famous examples.
Here, we are talking about the following six prominent blockchain social media platforms:
Let’s understand each of them in detail.
Pioneers in this field and built on the Steem blockchain, Steemit is one of the most popular blockchain social networks of all time. In terms of functionality, the platform has elements similar to Facebook and Reddit.
Based on the engagement, and ‘upvotes’ on content, the steem system automatically distributes rewards to the creator in Smart Media Tokens (SMT).
According to Steem Stats, users on this platform have earned up to $22 million for their content. Moreover, the Steemit whitepaper promised a staggering 6 million transactions per second, which is higher than the present TPS of Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Steemit is best suited for writers and content creators who want to monetize their content. Tron acquired Steemit in February 2020.
With millions of users, Diaspora is another popular blockchain social media platform. It is an “online social world where you are in control.” It allows users to join, host and interact in pods of their choice.
Moreover, users in the Diaspora ‘community,’ as they call it, can follow hashtags, just like traditional social media platforms.
Concerning its functionality and structure, Diaspora is based on three pillars.
- Decentralization – The ‘pods’ of the network are the distributed servers independently owned and run. It ensures that the system is truly decentralized, and none of the data is stored on a central server.
- Freedom – For participating in the Diaspora community, users do not need to reveal their true identity. Disclosing personal information such as contact number is also a choice of the user. Apart from being free-to-use, the software allows absolute freedom to its users to interact as they choose.
- Privacy – ‘Aspect,’ a unique Diaspora feature, enables users to fully control their data and share it upon their sole discretion. Moreover, while signing up for the community, users don’t sign off their data rights, either to Diaspora or to any other third-party.
This zero-censorship network is one of those few revolutionary digital platforms where the user owns absolutely all of their data.
Moreover, the platform is fully open-source, offering users heightened flexibility and enabling them to leverage the platform entirely in sync with their specific needs. The platform provides all of the now-popular features of applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and more.
Being an advocate of freedom of speech and expression, the platform enjoys a rapidly growing popularity. Consequently, its user base has already accumulated over 2 million.
It is a one-of-its-kind Blockchain social media platform, in the sense that it offers a full scape social network functionality, coupled with a revenue system.
A multi-layered application, All.me is based on four major components:
- meNetwork – The All.me’s core social media platform allows users to interact over a distributed network. In terms of content, this social media is like Instagram or Pinterest, where users usually post images.
- meMarket – It is a distributed marketplace that allows users to sell products on their profile or buy items from their newsfeed, in exchange for the ME token.
- mePay – An integral part of the All.me network is the in-built payment protocol, allowing users to transfer funds for commerce and other purposes.
- meToken – It is the network’s native cryptocurrency, which the users have to use for transactions on the platform.
Hosted on Coinbase, this use case of Blockchain in Social Media allows users to earn bitcoin by completing microtasks.
Upon creating a profile, users can join ‘lists’ based on their skill set and receive paid messages. The Earn network primarily utilizes a paid email system meant to increase the users’ chances of earning.
In essence, this platform may be compared to LinkedIn.
SocialX is a community-driven social media platform. It allows its users to post photos and videos. Even though it works similarly to traditional social media platforms like Facebook, it is decentralized. It functions on a decentralized blockchain platform, and its users can earn rewards in exchange of their content in the form of its own cryptocurrency – SOCX.
Blockchain social media, with its decentralized and distributed networks, offers a plausible solution to such issues. Among other things, they enable users to assert greater control over their data.
Moreover, in the absence of any centralized authority, users on these networks benefit from greater privacy. In turn, this upholds the freedom of speech and expression, relieving users of the miseries of being prosecuted for their thoughts on social media. Most decentralized social media platforms also enable their users to earn cryptocurrencies upon posting and interacting.
However, despite the many benefits, such uncensored platforms are rife with opportunities for criminal activities, which undermine the purpose of ensuring freedom. That said, regulations may be necessary to ensure that decentralized blockchain social media’s ideals are actualized to provide benefits and not harm.
In all, this domain’s prospects are diverse and with proper handling, these may transform the way we interact on the internet.