Lens Protocol is Breaking Down the Walled Gardens of Web2 Social

#newsletter

Welcome to Issue #4!

And welcome to the 2 new people who understand that blockchain technology is about so much more than the price of Bitcoin!

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On to this week’s

Web3 - ELI5

Protocol

If you hear a network acronym with a P in it, it probably stands for Protocol.

A protocol is a set of standards and rules for managing data on a network. Using a protocol can be compared to speaking a common language. I doesn't matter what hardware or software you're using. If all the parts can speak the same language and follow the same rules, they should be able to work together.

Some protocols you may have heard of:

  • IP - Internet protocol. This protocol governs how data gets broken up onto packets for transmission. And an IP address tells everyone on the network where your data comes from and needs to go. Often preceded by...
  • TCP - Transfer Control Protocol. This protocol allows two locations on the network to transmit data and makes sure the  packets arrive in the correct order.
  • HTTP - HyperText Transfer Protocol. Runs on top of TCP/IP. Extends the capability of TCP/IP by standardizing how various types of media are moved across the web.

One of the things that drove me to look into Web3 was my growing discomfort with building a content business inside the walled gardens of Meta and YouTube. Here’s a closer look at a protocol that is building a foundation for a Web3-Native social network.

Lens Protocol

Lens Protocol is a framework for building an open social network whose connections live on the blockchain. The network is viewable by anyone. And any developer who wants to use the protocol to build their own application can do so.

But before we get too far into the technical details, let's talk plants.

Lens refers to Lens Culinaris. This plant produces lens shaped pods (the lens part) that people like to eat (the culinaris part). These tasty little pods are more commonly known as lentils. Lentils were one of the first crops to be domesticated as the first human civilizations formed in the Fertile Crescent. They can grow in awful soil. And they actually make the ground more fertile for the crops planted after the lentils are harvested.

They do this through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria in the soil. The lentil plant draws nitrogen out of the atmosphere and passes it to the bacteria, along with some food and oxygen. The bacteria then convert the nitrogen to a form of fertilizer and fix it in the soil. If you're the curious type, there's a pretty cool article about it here.

So why am I describing Nitrogen Fixation to you? And why did they name their protocol after the Lentil?

Early human civilizations marked the first time people were required to manage social relationships beyond their own small tribe. Today the number and complexity of those connections have exploded. Lentils were there for the first social transformation. I guess Lens is going to be here for this one.

Lens believes that the Web2 social giants have created a system that is too centralized. Only a few private networks absorb all the content and control access to the audience. It’s become impossible for creators to flourish. We have built our digital identities inside their networks one connection, or piece of content, at a time.

And we don't own any of it.

Lens Protocol creates the framework for a new social media ecosystem. Where anyone can build and everyone owns what they publish. Much like the lentil renews the soil for other crops, Lens wants to renew a "hope for what social media can be."

So how is the Lens protocol symbiotic?

Lens doesn't have an app. It's just a set of standards. Any developer can build an app that uses these standards and plug it into the Lens ecosystem. Every piece of content uploaded through one app on the protocol is available in every other app that follows the same rules. This creates a massive content pool and the opportunity for infinite ways to contribute to and interact with it.

Let's take a look at how that works.

Profile NFT

At the heart of the protocol lies the Profile NFT. As a new user enters the ecosystem and creates a new profile, an NFT is sent to their wallet.

Here's the first departure from traditional social networks. That profile is yours. You own it. This record of ownership is currently kept on the Polygon blockchain, but Lens has plans to deploy on multiple chains.

Follow NFT

Each Profile NFT has the ability to mint and send Follow NFTs to followers. You can distribute them freely, or require a fee. As each Follower NFT is issued, it is assigned a unique ID that increments by one with each new follower. And because they're stored as records on a public blockchain, a simple query lets you see who has followed you, in what order, and for how long.

This open record gives you complete ownership of the connections between you and your followers. It allows you to:

  • Identify and reward those who have followed the longest.
  • Use FollwerNFTs to grant access and roles on any community platform that supports token gating.
  • Use tokens that you might have issued somewhere else to control interactions inside a Lens native application.
  • Use NFTs as a voter requirement for Governance in a DAO.

You will always be able to find your followers. Wherever you build your community, you can welcome anyone who holds one of your follower NFTs.

Publications

Your Profile NFT controls all your content as well as your relationships with other profiles. Lens refers to content as "publications". There are three types… Posts, Mirrors, and Comments.

Posts

A Post is any original content you add to the pool. Text, Audio, Video... whatever type of media your chosen app will allow you to upload.

The record of the Post is a smart contract that is connected to your Profile NFT and contains a reference to the storage location of the media. The type of storage is left up to the app developer. Some apps might choose a more traditional, centralized service like AWS. While others might opt for a decentralized option like IPFS or Arweave.

Since you own everything you publish, you can decide whether you want each publication to be limited to your followers or available to everyone. You also control whether other profiles can Mirror, Comment, and/or Collect each of your Posts.

Mirrors

When you find a piece of content that you want to share with others you can do it with a Mirror. If you were building your own version of Twitter to run on Lens, this would be a re-tweet. But on Lens, you get to decide who is allowed to Mirror a post. You can leave it open to anyone, limit it only to those who follow you, or turn off Mirroring all together.

On the follower side, Mirrors behave a lot like Posts. If you Mirror someone’s post, it can be Mirrored and Commented on by others. But, as the creator of a Mirror, you get to decide who can see, Comment or Mirror it again. Since a Mirror is not an original piece of content, they cannot be Collected.

Comments

Even though Comments are linked to other publications, they are treated as original pieces of content wholly owned by the person who made the Comment. So every time you Comment, you get to decide whether you want to allow others to Mirror, Comment on or Collect it.

The Collect Module

This is the built-in functionality that enables creators to monetize their content. You get to decide whether each Post or Comment can be collected freely or for a fee. Right now the fees are paid in MATIC, which is the native Polygon token. In the future you'll  be able to specify which tokens you're willing to accept. The Post or Comment is then minted as an NFT and deposited into the Collector's wallet.

If you want to create scarcity and reward those who are following closely, you can limit Collects to a fixed quantity or period of time. You can also create value for your Collectors by using Collected NFTs to grant additional access or status.

As a Collector, once you Collect a Publication, you own it. If it gains value or you lose interest in the creator, you can sell it.

Lens Native Apps

The project is new. There are a lot of teams building apps for Lens right now, but few of them are ready to use. Here are a few you can take look at today.

How do I get in?

Lens is allow-listing profiles in small batches right now. The best way to get on the list is to use the Phaver App. Here’s what you need to do.

1 - Create a Phaver account using this link https://phaver.app.link/MarkBuildsIt. Be sure to use an account ID you want to keep.

2 - Post original content from your creative niche. Almost all the content right now is crypto related. Post about something else to set yourself apart from the noise.

3 - Share content from other platforms. Especially your own content. Be sure to share the link and give credit to the original source. Once you install the Phaver App it will be available as one of the default “share” options on your mobile device, so it’s pretty easy to get this done.

For bonus points, add value to the original post by:

  • sharing a useful quote
  • pointing out a useful segment
  • giving your personal take or what you got out of it

4 - Join the discord and request "frens" status. If you let me know by tagging me with your request, I’ll review your request and make a recommendation.

5 - Optional, but recommended - Follow me @MarkBuildsIt and @CreatorDriven so I can follow you back and stake some Phaver Tokens on your posts.

See you there!


You might be interested…

Most of my Week in Web3 was spent in bed with a cold. So I didn’t bother to write down anything more than what you see here. I’m beginning to feel better, though. I should have something more for you next week.


Getting Meta

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Total Alpha Claims: 13


I used to hate writing in school. Now it seems I can’t shut up. We can always hope for a shorter newsletter next week.

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