DeSoc, Decoded

Social media users are caught in a David vs. Goliath battle with centralized actors over their identities, data, and content. These innovative Web3 configurations are now tipping the balance and letting users take back control.

Owning a social media account right now is a little like selling your soul.

Except it’s not quite a Faustian Bargain. There’s no kicker, magic or superpowers in return.

Instead, you just give up your data, your content, and by extension a part of your identity.

Why You Don’t Own Your Identity

If X or Facebook wants to close you down, they can. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Those years spent racking up followers or sharing precious memories can disappear in a flash.

There are big brains fortunately working to not only combat that, but combine emerging Web3 tools to give social media creators and consumers more control than ever.

There’s a lot to unpack. Let’s break it down…


Decentralized Social (“DeSoc” from here on out) centers on the concept of user-controlled identities, content, and data.

Removing ultimate control from centralized platforms, the likes of LinkedIn and Instagram, would mean users are free to build, discuss, and share content as they choose. They get to create, and keep, what’s theirs.

In one way or another, the current roster of DeSoc protocols aims to tackle a combination of the following.

Censorship Resistance

The big one. Identities and content stored using decentralized tech can’t be erased by centralized actors.

On-chain Reputation

Web3’s move from degen geek-hive to global, open infrastructure will facilitate more transparent and trustworthy reputation.


One identity, any protocol or platform. A unified cryptographic identity available across any supporting platform adds simplicity to sharing content or engaging with new apps.


One that will ring true with content creators. DeSoc could enable users to create permanent anchors between them and their communities, or audiences, irrespective of the platforms they use.

Open Source

X/Twitter has long irked developers with API restrictions, despite many of the platform’s most prominent features beginning life as third-party add-ons. It’s an understandable monetization pursuit, but one that ultimately holds back innovation.


DeSoc works currently in stacks. Protocols provide the specifications for identity storage, management, and communication, and third-party clients and services are developed around them to facilitate social media experiences for end users.


A protocol refers to the system and specs that define how a distributed network (or its actors) shares and stores data. An example here would be Lens Protocol.


A third-party app built on top of an existing protocol to provide a front-end for social interaction. To extend our previous example, Lenster would be such a client.

Social Graph

The connections between different users through their interests, interactions, and personal information.

Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs)

Cryptographic passports which allow owners to verify their identity, grant permissions, and control their social or financial accounts.


Nostr (“Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays”)

Nostr was the first DeSoc protocol to establish product market fit. The protocol is designed to be simple to use and censorship resistant, and has been adopted by many in the Bitcoin community.

It operates a (fairly) straightforward client and relay/node structure. Public keys play a pivotal role, with users creating, timestamping, and verifying messages.

Relays act as the storage and distribution means for data across the network. They may charge fees, limit activity to specific users, and share information with other relays. Relays may support additional optional functionality as specified in community-accepted “NIPS” (Nostr Improvement Protocols). An example of a popular NIP is support for Lightning Network tips.

Clients are apps that allow users to interact with the Nostr protocol. These fetch and display the relevant data from specified relays to the end-user.

Think of them like open-source iterations on the Twitter front-end, typically with a specific feature focus, such as simplified UX or better algorithms.

Examples of web-based Nostr clients:

Note: it’s important to flag that Nostr doesn’t employ a blockchain, though as mentioned above Lightning Payments are supported and encouraged.

Lens Protocol

Modularity is king here. Lens Protocol has been developed to unlock the siloed Web2 approach to social media data.

Lens primarily focuses on facilitating interoperability by being a user-owned and open social graph for third-party apps to leverage and build on.


Users start by creating a Lens profile, which is minted as an NFT. It then becomes possible for NFT identity holders to access third-party dApps, like Lenster and Lenstube, to create content without having to sign up for new services.

The result is a blockchain-intensive social experience, with NFTs being minted for many on-chain actions, such as following other users or liking their content.


This upstart protocol builds on the concept of being sufficiently decentralized.

That idea being that an appropriate level of decentralization has been reached when two users are able to communicate even if there is a concerted effort by network participants to stop them.

Each user profile is a numeric identifier (such as 04210412) that is controlled by a key pair. Farcaster then uses a Turing-complete blockchain to map identifiers to keys using a smart contract registry.

Users can assign a separate key pair, known as a signer, that allows third-party apps to sign messages on their behalf.

In contrast to a protocol like Nostr, every relayer/node (known as a ‘Hub’) on this network keeps a complete record of the data. To manage storage demands, users are initially given a data limit that trims the oldest messages when capacity is hit.


A protocol inspired by the Fediverse approach. The core motivation behind Bluesky is to develop identity portability and allow users to move seamlessly between apps.

The Authenticated Transfer Protocol (ATP) is the foundational network that works similarly to HTTP. Apps built on top of the protocol are conceptually described as ‘cities’, with each one acting through its own community and governance models.

The Bluesky identity simply acts as a go-between for exploring them. Information is managed on the network using data repos that collect posts, comments, likes, media blobs and so on. The protocol then syncs these repos in a federated network model.

Search algorithms and discoverability are an emerging topic in the Bluesky ecosystem. The recent Custom Feeds feature allows users to create portable feed lists that can be quickly replicated and shared.


Is DeSoc proving itself? It can currently offer immutable identities, portability between protocols, and facilitate novel use cases, like on-chain reputation.

Some facets still need to click into place. Aside from scaling, which is applicable to Web3 on the whole, unanswered questions remain around moderation, privacy, and permanence.

Ethics & Moderation

While freedom of speech is absolutely essential, it's also vital for adoption to develop communities where great content is promoted and harmful content and users are demoted.

There’s a fine line between gavel waving and allowing open distribution to ensure that DeSoc isn’t being misused.

Governance and community-based moderation can be a path to these open and customizable social spaces. This could fall on data handlers to mediate or create opportunities for protocols to reward those willing to review content.


Web3 is continuously at odds with finding the right balance between transparency and privacy. DeSoc is no different.

While social media is about connecting (and that means sharing), users often afford themselves forms of communication privacy, whether via closed groups or private messaging platforms.

Projects like Sismo are developing tools that allow users to shutter and privately share portions of personal information on-chain. This is paving the way for effective and secure on-chain reputation management and attestations that can strike the needed balance.


The privilege to edit or delete a social post is something most users appreciate. Is there space for DeSoc to facilitate this?

This is perhaps the most unexplored question covered here yet. Whatever combination of keys or DIDs a protocol employs typically leaves a data trail attached to each user.

Being able to delete links to content currently leaves Lens Protocol at the top of the stack in terms of content deniability. But, it isn’t an absolute solution, and it’s something that we’re also actively exploring at The Tinkering Society…

#decentralized finance#defi#social#identity#the tinkering society