Joining the Protocol
I was initially invited to Farcaster by my Googler friend Nick Matarese, who told me Farcaster was the Valley's hot new crypto social app and I needed to get on it ASAP. Nick always knows the latest thing, so when he tells me to try something, I try it.
This was sometime in early 2022 and there were less than 1,000 people on the app. The sign-up required me to save a recovery phrase and set the tone for a crypto-native experience. The core app layout was easy to use and felt like Twitter, but I churned quickly because it felt empty at the time.
I was walking in NYC a few months later and randomly wondered how that purple app was going.
I opened it up to see around 3,000 users and conversation flowing. At the time, the app had a leaderboard showing the most popular users. I decided I would just target their casts with replies to see if I couldn't get in the leaderboard, and in pretty short order I did. After that, I decided I would cast every day, and it was easy with solid mobile and desktop apps.
Once I was on the leaderboard, followers accumulated rapidly. Eventually, I learned this was due to the onboarding flow that asks you to follow 50 users, and those are the top 50 users on the app as determined by a ranking algorithm.
My follower steadily rose, and I was followed by Marc Andreessen, Vitalik, Chris Dixon, Dan Romero, other core members of the Merkle Manufactory team, and many other crypto legends. I realized how unique and special it was to be on the protocol during this time, and on the leaderboard, as it opened up channels for me I wouldn't get on any other platform.
My favorite part was I felt like I could be myself, and the conversation was focused on crypto, tech, and art – all my favorites.
Farcaster became my daily driver, I was hooked.
Why I stuck around
The Celebrity Effect and rising Follower Count are two nice perks of being active on Farcaster, but the meat and bones of why I love this platform are as follows:
This is obvious, but worth stating: the people who make up any social network are the most important component.
My perception of the core Farcaster user as of June 2023 is someone smart, kind, motivated, creative, curious, technically oriented, entrepreneurial, optimistic, and open to discussion.
This manifests itself in the timeline daily, where Casters raise interesting topics daily, have fun making memes, create NFTs, stream together, discuss products, discuss topical events, and ask a lot of questions.
IRL, the Farcaster Fam is a treat. The meetups at ETH Denver and NFT NYC this year were very well attended and felt more like a reunion than a first-time meeting of internet strangers. In the picture above, people who I'd met on Farcaster sang happy birthday to my wife and surprised her with a cake. What gems! In my experience, that's not a normal outcome of social media. Being part of Farcaster means you automatically have a group of excellent people to meet up with at any given conference.
The Merkle Manufactory team leads by example. They are on the protocol casting day in, day out, hosting video chats, and attending meetups. I honestly wonder when DWR gets any rest because he follows everyone on the platform and must get endless notifications yet somehow usually replies in under 1 minute. He sets the tone for the whole platform, and I like the vibe.
There are also many startup founders on the platform, which is invaluable to me as I cofound my own company, Icebreaker. There is no shortage of deep insight, founder support, investor opinions, and product feedback. In general, everyone is down to test everyone else's products and this hardcore early adopter attitude fosters a unique and rare environment. Where Twitter feels like a noisy stadium, Farcaster feels like a chill party full of interesting friends.
I can't say it better than the team here: Permissionless, Open Source, and Blazing Fast. Who doesn't want these attributes? I resonate with all three of these pillars and want to see this Protocol succeed in its mission.
I'm a firm believer in open source and permissionless composability as forces for good in the world. Looking at the available social media options with this perspective, it is easy to be in Farcaster's corner as there aren't other products building from this fundamental long-term worldview.
The Farcaster protocol is built in such a way that it fosters an entire ecosystem of apps around it.
The Warpcast client is (likely) the most popular product on the Protocol as it's the original client and built by the core team, so it has the most distribution. The team continually updates the app with quality-of-life improvements, recently dynamic notifications, and Channels.
The fact that the iOS app was fully functional and snappy upon my joining was another reason I was able to stick around: no one else had put a decentralized social experience in my pocket so well, and the team was very responsive to feedback.
Beyond the Warpcast client, a few of my favorite tools and clients built on top of Farcaster are Discove, Jam, Launchcaster, Searchcaster, Farcaster.Network, and Alphacaster. These are each different clients on top of the Farcaster protocol with various custom, differentiating feature sets. You can entirely replace the Warpcast client with one of the others if you so please, demonstrating the power of using a protocol instead of centralized services.
It's been amazing to have a front row see as an active user watching these products transform from ideas to functional apps. I personally really enjoy having alpha access to products and am always down to try out a new product in its earliest stages.
Building a new product is incredibly challenging so it's a testament to Farcaster that so many apps have already been built on top of it. I salute everyone building on top of the protocol.
a16z keeps a GitHub repo list of projects built on the protocol called Awesome Farcaster if you are interested in exploring what some of the builders have been up to.
Challenges & Opportunities
Of course, there are plenty of improvements to be made and we are in the early stages of a long journey. Here are a few of the challenges I see the protocol and clients needing to overcome:
Welcoming newcomers: In my personal experience, people who I expect to like the protocol and clients churn at a higher rate than expected. I think this is because they feel like they're late to the party, starting over on a new social, and don't want to contribute the energy. I wonder how we might make joining the protocol more welcoming and expose the great vibes you find if you hang out long enough.
Easier onboarding: Users struggle with recovery phrase setup and management. New account abstraction and wallet services like Privy and others are tackling this challenge, and I'm sure the team is thinking about ways to make this less painful while retaining the powerful decentralized aspects of wallets.
Multi-account management: I recently went through this to add the Icebreaker account, and I know others have done the same. Managing multiple accounts right now is cumbersome and confusing to manage. This could be a wedge for another client by being the best place to manage multiple Farcaster accounts.
More topics and communities: As much as I love crypto, NFTs, and tech, it dominates the conversation on the protocol. I don't know how this problem works itself out, but I hope we somehow attract some other groups and see the network grow beyond its core set of early adopters. Getting people to shift their behavior to something that is not a 10x better experience is a hard sell unless they're motivated by the mission.
Protocol growth: User growth percentage sits at 1.2% currently, with a slight decrease in Monthly Active Casters. This is the existential threat for Farcaster in the scenario the network can't get enough traction to survive. Addressing the newcomers and onboarding challenges may help with this. I know DWR and the team have thought a lot about this particular scenario and either way I'm curious to see what happens. I'll be continuing to cast!
DWR's notes: Dan has posted a lot of ideas for Farcaster on his site. If you want to build something on Farcaster, check that out.
I hope to see Farcaster succeed as a protocol on a grand scale. I am already fully bought in with my own time and whenever possible try to convince those who I think would enjoy it to give it a shot.
I would be curious to hear from churned users why they left and see what can be done to address those challenges. For me, it's been an amazing journey so far and I don't see that changing – Farcaster is hands down my favorite place to hang out on the internet.
I'm very much looking forward to FarCon, the first unofficial Farcaster Conference, this weekend in Boston, and big thanks to Cameron Armstrong for organizing both FarCon and the writing contest on his platform Say More which motivated me to write this up.
If you made it this far and are not yet on Farcaster please message me on Telegram for an invitation, and if you found this article enjoyable I'd love to hear about it on Warpcast, Twitter, or in a DM on Telegram.
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