Mass adoption has been a long-standing goal for the Blockchain industry. Most businesses in this space strive for mass adoption in one way or the other. Social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Tencent, Kakao, Twitter and LinkedIn have dominated society and the way in which people keep in touch with each other, enabling individuals to remotely communicate using web-based applications on a global basis. A number of these social network companies have grown massively by selling our data to other corporations, and now they are increasingly turning their attention to the metaverse. The use of Blockchain technology is fundamental to the operation of the metaverse; digital assets such as NFTs will define ownership on the metaverse and digital currencies will power the new digital economy. The blockchain industry today is filled with unprecedented innovation, however, according to Nasdaq.com: “Yet, these innovations mostly focus on short-term growth and do not provide a strong reason for people to transition from centralized systems to decentralized ones.” But how do Blockchain technology and digital assets actually influence the social networks?
Blockchains and social networks
The crypto exchange and custodian, Gemini, believes: “Blockchain-integrated social media is a quickly growing sector that brings decentralised protocols to platforms built for facilitating connection and content-sharing between people”. Blockchain-powered platforms enable a much greater degree of transparency (and therefore trust), whereby driving out potentially ‘fake news’ allegations and rumours that have been a feature of many social networks. As Forbes reports, five of the biggest social networking firms featured in the Forbes Blockchain 50 list of $billion companies investing and embracing Blockchain technology.
What are decentralised social networks?
Tulane University a private research university in Louisiana USA has defined decentralised social networks by the fact that, “they operate on independently run servers, rather than on a centralized server owned by a business”. On such networks, the data is not controlled by any central authority or government organisation. Shown here below are the key differences that decentralised social networks have from their centralised predecessors.
Advantages of decentralised social networksThere are a number of benefits that blockchain-powered decentralised social networks offer compared to the original command and control centralised organisations.
- With decentralised networks, unethical usage of users’ data can be prevented.
- Blockchain technology uses cryptography to protect the interactions between users, which results in data security and privacy.
- As there is no central authority, the usage of data is controlled by the users themselves, resulting in freedom of expression. So, users can control what they publish and what not to publish.
- It is possible to create digital loyalty programs in the form of a digital currency to encourage viral marketing and retain people’s attention so as to keep returning to use the social network.
- Content moderation is a major challenge for many of the social networks. It is claimed that on Facebook alone, there are over
4.75billion posts a day. Trying to manually monitor and control this amount of content is impossible, but having the data held in a more structured digital manner allows for more efficient machine-driven screening and deployment of smart contracts to, in effect, help police the content in virtually real time.
- The open-source nature and use of public blockchains allows content moderation and content sharing to be more efficient.
- There is no reason why we will not see some social networks adopting the corporate structure of a decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO) - a network run for its users, by its users, with content monitored and deleted, if necessary, and based on the wishes of the majority of the members of the DAO. In theory, far more democratic and juxtaposed to the current centralised social networks that currently exist.
When it comes to traditional social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tencent etc, fundamental problems include fake news, excessive trolling, censorship and possibly, most importantly, an increasing lack of trust. The decentralised nature of Blockchain technology provides some potentially attractive tools and a new structure for social networks, but also some challenges. Whilst decentralisation may offer the users benefits, it potentially replaces directors and undermines the shareholders’ value. Traditional social networks are profit-driven companies which are obligated towards profit, whilst decentralised social networks can be autonomously run organisations that improve and develop over time to benefit their users. However, will we see companies such as Facebook, now renamed Meta and be able to successfully navigate itself and either become a decentralised social network or, at least, use Blockchain technology to address some of the challenges it faces as one of the world’s biggest social networks?