A Guide to the Web3 Social Graph
Social media has emerged as an integral part of the digital age. It enables people to connect with others all around the world and facilitates near-instant information sharing. It helps users to update themselves on current events, discover new products and services, promote businesses and brands and do much more. However, all of this is with the risk of user data privacy and vulnerability.
As is rightly pointed out by Senator Durbin in the court hearing of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, “Your right to privacy, the limits of your right to privacy and how much you give away in the name of connecting people around the world” is a major issue to be considered.
All major social media platforms built on web 2.0 take advantage of user data they provide while creating a new account. Moreover, each user’s all actions are monitored and recorded by these social platforms to offer a personalized and rich user experience. These recorded details of users are known as a social graph.
This article is a guide to the web3 social graph and how it is beneficial over web 2.0 social graphs.
- What is a social graph?
- Benefits of social graph
- Problems of web 2.0 social graph
- Guide to the web3 social graph
- Web3 social graph vs. Web 2.0 social graph
- Benefits of web3 social graph
- The existing social graph in web3 projects
What is a social graph?
A social graph, in simple terms, describes a person’s interconnection of relationships in an online social network. It demonstrates association among individuals, groups and organizations within a social network. When an individual creates an account on social media, say Facebook, and posts content and follows other users, a curated feed of their activities is made. This curated feed is recommended to them by the social media app each time they visit the app. You add to your social graph every time you like or comment on a post or content. If you map out your social graph, it will become a massive spider web of connections and data.
Although the term social graph existed for a long time, it became popular once Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg re-introduced it at the Facebook F8 conference on May 24, 2007. At the conference, Zuckerberg discussed the policy changes in the platform to introduce a social graph that documents the network of connections and relationships of Facebook members to enhance the web experience of each user.
Ever since the Facebook F8 conference, the social graph emerged as the fundamental value of every social media platform. Whenever a new user registers and enters a social media application, the platform initiates searching for people they might know based on the information provided during registration. The application learns about their preferences by recommending topics of interest and recording each content they have browsed on the platform, their interactions with others, their likes, comments and more, based on which a user-centric social graph is created. A user’s social graph can include their interests, interpersonal relationships, and living habits.
Benefits of social graph
Social graphs make social media like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Tik Tok powerful. Whenever you enter a specific social media, all your activities are documented. Facebook, for example, can see your friends list, track your calls and texts, know if you and your friends have attended any meetings together and more. These details are stored in a systemized way where you and everything around you are connected. Let us understand how social graph benefits the specific social platform, users and third parties differently.
Benefits for the social media platform
The more a social media platform knows about an individual, the more they can personalize their users’ experience; hence, more people may stay inseparable from the application. However, the major benefit is monetization. Social media platforms can incentivize some, at least not all, of an individual’s social graph by selling it to third parties and advertisers. Facebook, for example, earned an average revenue of 50.25 U.S. dollars per user in the U.S. and Canadian market in the second quarter of 2022.
Benefits for users
Although at the cost of personal data, users get a personalized experience rather than a generic one. This is more useful for the users, as it understands your preferences and suggests only what you like. The advertisements targeted for you only compile what you may be interested in buying. The more details you share with the platform, the more your experience is personalized.
Benefits for third parties
Third parties leveraging your social graph can include advertisers, companies and brands. These third parties utilize the social graph to find the right audience for their products and services. They keep the end users as targets to promote their products so that users may buy them. Moreover, it executes personalized recommendations to the users. For example, TripAdvisor employs Facebook’s social graph to ensure that any reviews of restaurants, hotels or resorts posted by people you know show at the top whenever you search for a review.
Problems of web 2.0 social graph
Invasion of user privacy
Web 2.0 social graph might not be a grave issue at first glance. However, on a serious note, it is an invasion of an individual’s privacy. Most social media platforms monitor users’ behavioral traces and gather user data. A considerable amount of data of end users are sold to third parties by the social platforms to gain profit. In the second quarter of 2022 alone, Facebook or Meta earned an ad revenue of $28.15 billion, which is a huge sum, considering that advertising is the main source of income for the platform.
Centralized data storage and data leakage
The crucial issue of web 2.0 social graphs lies in user data storage. As all of the existing social media platforms are built on web 2.0, the user data is stored in centralized databases. Plenty of collected data are not even gathered for any specific purpose. As these user data are collected using big data technologies and stored in centralized databases, it is most vulnerable to data leakages. It leads to fraud cases and irreversible damage to the social media ecosystem. One of the most infamous contemporary data leakages includes the data breach of the Facebook social graph by the data company Cambridge Analytica which involved acquiring the personal data of millions of users for political advertising.
The web 2.0 social graph summarizes users’ social behavior and actions that generate value for the platform, which is beneficial to the company but not the users. The users’ rights are restricted to leveraging the social media platform as a social tool and nothing more.
Guide to the web3 social graph
The primary goal of the web3 introduction is decentralization and offering data ownership back to users. Leveraging blockchain technology and the on-chain identity a user possesses, the social graph data comes under the control of users, not the social platform. It takes away the power of social media giants on user data and gives the control back to the users, who should have been the data owners right from the start. This means that the users have the right to give or not give data access to others. The users can also monetize their data by selling it to third parties, similar to web 2.0 social media platforms.
Web3 social graph eliminates the chances of data barriers and thresholds among social platforms. If users need to change the present social platform they are using, they can shift the user identity with all on-chain history to other platforms without any hitches.
Moreover, the web3 social graph is transparent and cannot be manipulated. Information like the transactions you have conducted, the amounts, your participation in DeFi projects, and more are visible in your wallet address. With a single address, you can log in to numerous applications, and the user behavior in each platform will be recorded. However, this record stays with you, not any outsider.
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Web3 social graph vs. Web 2.0 social graph
Web 2.0 social graph
Web3 social graph
|Data storage||Centralized storage||Decentralized and distributed storage|
|User privacy||Has least user privacy||Offers maximum user privacy|
|Data control||Data is controlled by social media platforms||Data is controlled by users’ themselves|
|Data ownership||Social media platforms own user data||Users own their own data|
|Transparency||No transparency exists||It is transparent|
|Monetization||Social media platforms can sell the data to third parties||Users have the right to either monetize or not monetize their data|
|Data vulnerability||Has high chances of data leakage and security threats||It is least prone to data leakage and security threats.|
Benefits of web3 social graph
Web3 social graphs are beneficial over Web 2.0 social graphs in many ways. Let us look into the advantages of web3 social graphs:
- Decentralized – Web3 social graph is decentralized and distributed among multiple blockchain nodes.
- Self-sovereign – Even though social graphs are open to all, the sole control and ownership of the data lie in the hands of the end-users. They can decide whether they want to share the data with a third party.
- Privacy – As web3 social graphs offer self-sovereign identity to users, they provide maximum privacy to the users.
- P2P sharing – Users who are the data owners can share the social graph directly with anyone they wish.
- Data portability – With web3, any data or social graphs can seamlessly move across blockchain platforms without rebuilding the data in each step.
- Freedom of choice – Web3 gives users more liberty in choosing applications, community cultures and policies.
The existing social graph in web3 projects
Some of the existing social graph projects built on web3 include:
Created by the Aave team, Lens protocol is a user-owned, composable and decentralized social graph that any application can plug into. It is a web3 social graph built on the Polygon Proof-of-Stake blockchain. It is a modular protocol that permits new features and fixes to be added while ensuring immutable user-owned content and social relationships. It lets creators take ownership of their content, where they no longer need to worry about losing their content.
Launched in September 2021, CyberConnect is yet another decentralized social graph protocol helping dApps bootstrap network effects and develop personalized social experiences for users. It empowers web3 social networks by making them decentralized, self-sovereign and censorship-free. It is openly accessible to anyone. Moreover, it is a multi-chain and multi-platform social graph protocol.
DeSo, elaborated as the decentralized social blockchain, is a layer 1 blockchain built to decentralize social media platforms and scale storage-heavy applications. It gives its users control over their social graphs and enables them to seamlessly port information, NFTs, content and coins between applications. No external party has any exclusive access to a user’s social graph.
Each person joining the DeSo network gets a ‘DeSo identity,’ similar to Metamask on Ethereum. This identity helps users login to any apps developed on the DeSo ecosystem, facilitating content and data portability.
5Degrees is another social graph protocol brought forth by the TokenPocket wallet. Developed based on the ERC-1155 token standard, it creates profile NFT using the core user data, constructing a social relationship network infrastructure.
The social graph in web3 is a necessity in the present scenario. With social giants taking advantage of and misusing user data, the current social graph needs major reconstruction. Web3 social graphs appear as a relief in this unilateral exploitation of social graphs. Not only does web3 prove beneficial in data control and ownership by the user, but it also tackles other issues, such as the portability of data and security threats associated with data. As such, the introduction of the web3 social graph can rebuild the entire ecosystem into an effective one.
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