Imagine this: You've built up an incredible social media following, your livelihood is directly tied to the connections you have there... and then one day you wake up, and it is all gone.
We've heard these kinds of horror stories before, and since social media somehow exists as both a trivial & non-trivial aspect to many of our lives, there's mixed signals on how important this inherent risk truly is for content creators.
The pitfall is that many of today's social media platforms are centralized corporate entities that effectively own, host & control the gateways of access to not only your content, but the connections you have on their platforms.
Today though, there are many efforts in the web3 space to tackle the challenge of decentralizing social media. Various companies are developing Protocols to fix many of these existing problems. Some include Lens Protocol, CyberConnect, Farcaster, DeSo, Releap & I'm sure there are others.
Understanding The Current Risk
Take your traditional Web2 platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, etc. These platforms are centralized; meaning, if they decide to ban your account or demonetize you… that’s it. A ban would result in you completely losing your content & connections that you’ve worked so hard to make.
And therein lies the problem. Some might refer to these web2 social apps as “rented platforms”. The large corporations that own the servers these networks operate on, own not just all of your content, but your connections as well — what is referred to as your “Social Graph”.
That’s like renting a place to live where you are also leasing all of the furnishings… oh and any friends you make while in that building, their point of contact also belongs to your landlord!
How Decentralized Social Helps
In Web3 & Decentralized Social, however, in the same way that we can self-custody (aka own) cryptocurrency, NFTs & digital assets, is the same way we can own & self-custody our Social Graph. These protocols, along with the platforms built on top of them, return ownership back to the people.
Now, it might be important to understand the difference between a “Protocol” & a “Platform”.
Helpful Analogies from Nature
What is a Protocol?
A Protocol is more fundamental than a platform. Think of Protocols like soil as compared to the plants that grow from it, which would be like the Platforms. Different soils have different qualities, and it is not unheard of for ‘farmers’ (aka builders) to mix different soils together to inherit qualities from each of their unique properties!
You can consider protocols the core logic that defines the rules, formats, functions & standards of an ecosystem. It pre-defines the nature of the plants (aka Platforms) that are capable of blooming there.
What is a Platform?
Platforms then, also known as the Application layer, are the presentation, the user interface, the plant & fruit that is directly engaged with by the outside world, its pollinators / users / audience. As hinted at above with the mixing of the soils, if a platform builder wanted, it could incorporate the functionality of multiple Protocols into their app.
One Owned Account, Many App Experiences
All that being said, efforts from these various decentralized social protocols create a meaningful foundation for decentralized social Platforms to emerge, and what’s truly amazing about it, is that there is a high level of composability between the Platforms built on a single Protocol (with compounding benefits if integrating more than one).
What this means is, any Platform participating in a specific ecosystem — let us use the Lens Protocol ecosystem as an example here — would allow you to participate with the same exact profile & connections that are tied to your Lens Protocol account. Most content would translate over as welll, depending on what media types a platform might prioritize, i.e. text, images, video, etc.
To reinforce the lesson, imagine having a Instagram account, and all of a sudden when TikTok released, rather than having to start fresh & find your people again, all of your following & content were automatically accessible there!
Now, for those that don't know, web3 is truly the dawn of the internet of value. The innovations that have been rolling out over the last decade are providing a brand new infrastructure to digital financial systems. Cryptocurrencies on their own were just the tip of the iceberg, and DeFi (Decentralized Finance) is a whole topic in & of itself that warrants its own breakdown. Still, these new key pieces are part of the fabric of web3, and thus easily woven into any experience built on top of it.
This means that decentralized social media content in this new era can be directly monetized & "collected" as a reciprocation of the value it provides to its consumers. A secondary market can be born from viral content that people want a piece of for their own collections, and content creators can have a direct, virtual means to monetize & transact content with their communities.
So to conclude, this is a small glimpse of the many benefits that are beginning to roll out in this next era of social media. It is even more exciting to know that this is just the beginning... That returning ownership back to the people is just the foundation for many other amazing features & social experiences to come.
Should you all find it worthwhile that I follow up on this post with additional insights, leave me a comment & I'll expound as best I can!
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