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Why Isn't Web3 Social Media Taking Over the World?

Is growth stagnating, or should we give it more time?

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While traveling to Pennsylvania from Texas this week, I've had a little chance to reflect on the Web3 social media ecosystem and its progress toward that promised paradise of easy monetization, secure intellectual property rights for creators, unparalleled decentralization, and digital identity control for every man and woman. Have we arrived? Are we almost there?

Much to my chagrin, I'll have to say we're not quite there. Not even close. But why?

It seems there are three things going on in the Web3 social media development space that is preventing us from reaching paradise.

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  1. Too many platforms, not enough players - At my last count, there were more than 100 different Web3 social media platform trying to become the Facebook of the Web3 space. I list them in the appendix of my book Web3 Social: How Creators Are Changing the World Wide Web (And You Can Too!). There are probably close to 200 now, because they just keep popping up. Until Web3 social media platforms can attract more users, which isn't happening despite all the talk, this isn't likely to change.

  2. Development is slow - Most of these projects are underfunded and developers are overworked. That means new features are slow in the coming. Hive is about four years old now and it still looks like it did when it launched, which is almost a carbon copy of its predecessor Steemit, which launched in 2006. Platforms that do roll out features more quickly are still not getting a lot of traction among new users. DeSo and Lens, both of which launched with much fanfare, have turned out to be major disappointments for many users and the user base has declined considerably.

  3. Adoption isn't happening - That brings me to my third point. People just aren't adopting this new technology. For the most part, the people using Web3 social media today are still the same people who used it seven or eight years ago, with some recidivism. There are many more platforms now than then and the user base from Steemit has moved on to other platforms. The audience has been splintered. The intended audience, current Web2 social media users, are content with Facebook, TikTok, X, and the pantheon of legacy platforms. Heck, even Web3 social media enthusiasts have realized that they too must play on the legacy platforms in order to have conversations with everyone else for the purpose of recruitment. Non-adopters site several reasons for their reluctance to switch over to Web3 social media platforms: 1) not interested in cryptocurrencies; 2) the onramp is too complex and difficult to navigate; 3) they don't want to lose the audience they've built up over the years on legacy social media platforms. All of these are legitimate reasons for lack of interest. Is there a way to get over these hurdles?

I wish I knew the solution. For the most part, no platform has gained the popularity necessary to turn heads. Steemit was on track at one time before internal pressures drove its founders away to other projects and selling the platform to Justin Sun. That led to a fork and the creation of Hive, which, if you're a regular reader, know is my favorite Web3 social media platform.

While Hive has its benefits, there are some drawbacks. The most decentralized among the platforms that claim to be decentralized, it has failed to attract new users at a rate that would cause it attract earned media.

Here's what I think a Web3 social media platform needs in order to attract new users and prove to the world that it can compete against Facebook and X:

  • True decentralization - While Hive is close, there is an appearance of whale dominated culture. Whether it's real or not, a perception has a way of becoming reality even against all opposition. The next great Web3 social media platform must find a way to be truly decentralized.

  • Strong marketing - It is very difficult to achieve any level of success at marketing without some level of centralization, but that is what is needed. If Web3 social media communities can figure out how to be aggressive with marketing a platform, including the deployment of a strong branding message, while remaining decentralized, there's a fighting chance at achieving the golden dream.

  • Offer something besides native crypto - If people are not interested in your core offering, you'll fight an uphill battle your whole life through. The great majority of people are not interested in crypto, let alone your native token. They just don't see the benefit and don't want to learn. Even those who are interested, or willing to give it a try, want something more than your little coin. Web3 social media platforms need to offer a bridge very early on to USDC and USDT, the two leading stablecoins. Being able to trade your native token, if you have one, quickly and easily with Bitcoin and fiat money, especially fiat money, would also go a long way to encouraging users to try your platform. But once you get them there, you must find a way to keep them there.

  • Make your platform attractive - I've seen some attractive Web3 social media platforms, but they often have other issues that prevent adoption. Several platforms have realized the user adoption conundrum and opted to focus on being a crypto-focused platform. In other words, they're content with being a social media platform for crypto enthusiasts. That's fine if that's what they want, but the audience will always be limited. An attractive platform that is easy to use will go a long way to attracting an audience, but this must be done with sacrificing decentralization.

  • Build in public and offer cool features - People want their social media to be social. That means there must be cool social media platforms. Hive is great, for bloggers. Its video components are great for video creators, but most of these creators are heading to YouTube still. It's time for Web3 social media platforms to distinguish themselves in a way to legacy social media audiences want (in other words, beyond crypto).

Web3 social media may never attract a mass audience, and by mass audience I mean the average Facebook and TikTok user. I'm okay with that. I think it's perfectly acceptable to remain a niche product, but new Web3 social media platforms must define what they are and who their audience is early on. Make it easy for users to show up, sign up, earn for their creations, stake their earnings, and cash out when they're ready to leave. If you do everything else right, they may never want to leave.

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#web3 social media#travel#hive#web3 social#web3 development#steemit#deso#lens#facebook#tiktok#x#cryptocurrency#decentralization#marketing#stablecoins#usdc#usdt
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