Lens Protocol: The Future of Social Media

Note: Originally published on April 2, 2023 on Mirror.

Imagine owning all your social media data, seamlessly importing it from one app to another. No more losing followers when switching platforms or getting locked out by a site's whims. Welcome to the power of Web3 social media—a game-changer for creators. You can carry your followers, posts, and comments with you while monetizing your content like never before.

Dive into how Lens Protocol, a Web3 social protocol, is shaking up the social media landscape. Traditional platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram control both their web applications and underlying databases, leaving user data at their mercy. Web3 social media disrupts this model by giving users control of their data on a decentralized database. Built on smart contracts deployed on Ethereum's Polygon sidechain, Lens Protocol enables anyone to create applications that interact with its smart contracts, accessing and using data stored on the blockchain. This results in permissionless, public data available for anyone to use in their apps.

This open accessibility introduces a new level of competition, as anyone can build a web application that interacts with the database. Social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have remained relatively unchanged because they've dominated the market without needing to innovate. Web3 social media, however, forces companies to continuously improve their products or risk being outpaced by new competitors. This constant competition drives innovation and ensures a better user experience.

Creating a profile on Lens involves using smart contracts to generate a token storing your profile information. Your wallet owns this token, giving you full control over your data—a stark contrast to platforms like Facebook. One significant advantage of this new model is the ability for creators to retain their followers, even when switching platforms. Picture a creator with 5 million Vine followers. As the platform fades and TikTok emerges, they don't have to start from scratch. With Lens Protocol, they can log in and retain all 5 million followers, maintaining their brand momentum.

Lens Protocol's modularity unlocks creative freedom, allowing users to customize their posts and how they can be collected. Content creators can tokenize their work, introducing scarcity and additional revenue streams. For example, Taylor Swift could tokenize an announcement for her upcoming comeback tour, limiting the supply to 10 collectible posts at $100 each. Fans would likely pay far more than $100 to collect that post, generating a new monetization form for creators. Users can set rules about who can follow them, creating a Patreon or OnlyFans-style platform without a single company controlling it.

But there's a catch. Building an app on Lens Protocol isn't as simple as directly interacting with the blockchain. Instead, the team combines a Web2 stack with the blockchain layer. Reading data from Lens involves accessing their internal database, powered by PostgreSQL, Redis, and GraphQL. Writing data still happens directly on the blockchain, but you need to ensure your interactions are in the correct format for Lens' "indexer" (smart contract event listener). You might question Lens' centralization, given the use of an internal database. While Lens' database gets all of its data from the blockchain, it's worth pondering whether this setup offers the same security level as a DeFi app or if it's more susceptible to hacking. Answers depend on your perspective and concerns. As for speed, transactions can take 2+ minutes to finalize, even on the Polygon sidechain, which may raise short-term scalability concerns.

In conclusion, Lens Protocol revolutionizes social media by empowering users to own their data, decentralize storage, and foster openness and collaboration among applications. This user-centric approach provides creators with innovative ways to monetize their work and connect with audiences. Lens Protocol paves the way for a more equitable, transparent, and flexible digital landscape, shaping the future of social media.

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