Blockchain Technologies to Challenge the Existing Models of Social Media
It would be hard to argue with the fact that in the 21st century social media are totally dominating people’s lives. According to eMarketer statistics, the number of social media users in 2017 exceeded 2,46 bln people and will reach 3,02 bln by the year of 2021. The most popular social network in the world is, of course, Facebook, while the largest number of its users comes from the emerging countries of Asia and the Middle East.
For the currently existing social networks their users are their main product. Social media exploit and analyze users’ personal data in order to make money from targeted marketing and advertising campaigns. In 2017, Facebook made the revenue of almost $40 bln on advertising, which is designed with its users’ personal data. However, the recent scandal around the leak of personal information of 87 million Facebook users to third parties (i.e. the infamous Cambridge Analytica, a company that uses data mining on social media platforms in order to build strategic communication campaigns for electoral process) is raising important questions of anonymity on the Internet and ethical standards for social media world.
Blockchain with its decentralized model and encrypting possibilities might provide an effective solution to the existing issues with personal data security on the Internet. Blockchain-based social networks will also provide its users with cryptocurrency, which will be used for payments and transactions within their ecosystems and possibly beyond them, in real life. Even though the whole concept of decentralized social networks requires detailed elaboration in the future, the number of such projects and the level of interest they gain prove a stable trend in social media development in the coming decades.
Steemit: supports community building with blockchain technologies, allows its users to earn money from their intellect and has been through rough time since the launch
Steemit’s philosophy was identified by a core belief that users themselves add value to the social media platforms where they publish their content and should be rewarded for that. The project’s developers wanted to reimburse users for their unique content with STEEM cryptocurrency and therefore restore justice in the social media world.
The platform was launched in March 2016 without an ICO and gained huge attention from the blockchain community (the STEEM cryptocurrency gained 1000% value over a few weeks). After a few months of operating, the platform announced that it was hacked. The attackers acquired about $85 000 worth of the Steemit cryptocurrency. Even though the project managed to bounce back from this reputation drop, the platform has been facing different problems since the start. Steem’s market cap peaked in August 2016 (reached the level of $392 mln) and has been decreasing since then.
The project embodies many issues that can occur with a blockchain-based platform. Since the launch, the platform’s users complained about wallets structure, problems with setup instructions, as well as no timely assistance from the platform developers. After a while, the developer spotted issues with STEEM’s mining process and had to re-launch the platform’s cryptocurrency.
While the platform’s decentralized principle is its main appealing feature, it does not provide decent content moderation protocols. However, it is impossible to evaluate the quality of the content at the moment, as the project’s website steemit.com is inaccessible.
Advantages: a promising reward gaining scheme for users.
Disadvantages: undeveloped content moderation mechanisms, flawed technical support system.
Synereo: similar project to Steemit with a rocky road to success and grand plans ahead
Synereo’s creators see attention as the most important asset of social media users and plan to build the platform economy on it. The platform launched two rounds of crowdfunding campaigns in 2015 and 2016 and gained $120 000 and $4,7mln respectively. The platform had to organize the second round of token sale, as the first one did not reach the expectations of the developers. However, the second attempt was way more successful, as the company entered a Silicon Valley startup accelerator NFX and rebuilt its strategy and philosophy, making the attention economy its key concept.
Attention, being human brain’s “natural method of information management”, as the project’s whitepaper states, is used in Synereo ecosystem to distinct unique content from lower quality kind. Users are supposed to be rewarded for the high level of attention their content attracts with AMP tokens. The acronym AMP is derived from a verb “to amplify” and embodies the core aim of Synereo: the project developers want to amplify and strengthen the content created by ordinary users.
The monetization process on the platform is carried out through WildSpark, a smart contract, which is already in place. It allows users to reward content creators and content curators directly with no interaction from the Synereo platform itself. The unique feature of Wild Spark is that it is “platform-agnostic” and allows its users to monetize their content, regardless of the publication platform.
While the social network application, which now exists in an alpha version so far, is the main project of Synereo team, in 2016 they launched their own RChain protocol in order to “fundamentally redesign the Internet”. This initially side project was quite well received by the blockchain community because of its innovative approach towards smart contract design. However, the Synereo team split up and currently RChain is developing as an independent project.
Advantages: a promising reward gaining scheme for users.
Disadvantages: undeveloped content moderation mechanisms, a split up within the project’s team.
Akasha: a project with strong team of creators and ambition to redesign the information access on the Internet
Akasha is a product of one of the Ethereum and Bitcoin Magazine founders, which aims to make Internet free of any kind of censorship. The project’s name means “ether” in Sanskrit, which embodies its core philosophy in protecting the collective memory of the Internet users. Broadly speaking, Akasha “is a social and technological experiment, enabling our collective memory, feelings and ideas to echo freely throughout humanity’s existence”, the project’s website says.
Specifically, Akasha developers want to tackle Internet censorship with its decentralized open source social media platform, which is based on InterPlanetary File System. IPFS is a peer-to-peer protocol, which aims to compete with currently widespread HTTP system. IPFS will make it possible to preserve the existence of all the information published in the World Wide Web and prevent it from being deleted by governments and censorship organs of any kind. IPFS will also allow to increase the speed of information exchange within the Akasha ecosystem, as it uses the mechanisms similar to BitTorrent seeding process.
Akasha is based on Ethereum, which, on the one hand, makes it more trustworthy in terms of reliability of the content rewarding system. On the other hand, Ethereum transactions still remain quite expensive, opposite to other cryptocurrencies. However, as the platform’s main idea is to help users monetize their content, Ethereum clearly is a much more attractive reward.
The company promises to launch Akasha 1.0 in the end of 2018 and constantly provides observers with the updates on its development. As the platform will use Ethereum, the developers do not plan a token sale in the near future, while choosing “to focus first on building a working decentralized application and learning from its actual use what sorts of problems we should be solving with a custom token”, Akasha’s website says.
Advantages: based on Ethereum, a stable cryptocurrency, InterPlanetary File System to tackle censorship problem on the Internet.
Disadvantages: costly Ethereum mining, unclear content moderation mechanisms.
Indorse: a blockchain-based decentralized version of LinkedIn with its own skill economy
The distinguishing feature of this platform is its professional focus and aim to help users build their own network based on their skills and reputation. Indorse’s object of monetizing, unlike other blockchain-based social networks, is not users’ content but their personal data. Indorse will encourage users to publish information about their professional and personal achievements online and receive endorsements from their peers and thus earn rewards from the platform.
In order to support their skills of any kind and earn endorsements, the platform users will have to provide proofs of their achievements, which will be verified by Indorse’s moderation system. The project will use a so-called Indorse Score system, similar to Proof-of-Stake protocol, in order to create a transparent reputation-building system. In one case scenario, ordinary users will be randomly chosen to verify other users’ claims supported by links to the actual evidence. Once the endorsement of a certain claim is completed, two users (the one who published a claim and the one who verified it) will be rewarded with tokens and their reputation score increase. In another case, a claimant can choose to receive a paid endorsement from the platform “influencer”, who will be rewarded with tokens or Indorse rewards.
Another part of Indorse platform will be advertising mechanisms for specialized agencies, similar to Google AdWords, the project’s whitepaper states. Advertisement placement will be purchased at certain rates, but part of the tokens received from such transactions will go back to the platform’s users.
In the second year after the platform’s launch, its developers plan to introduce specialized talent seeking and headhunting services to it. They will be paid with the platform’s tokens (IND), which should be purchased through the existing cryptocurrency exchanges. These services are not only aimed to benefit hiring companies but also to kickstart careers of young college graduates and to empower freelancers.
Advantages: an idea of skill economy, based on professional networks.
Disadvantages: unclear content moderation mechanisms.
Monoreto: a blockchain-based social network aimed at photo content monetization
The idea of this platform is very simple: its developers aim to empower content creators who publish visual materials on the Internet. With the expansion of social media platforms focused on photo and video content, the new methods of its monetization actively emerged. However, Monoreto developers outline several issues with the existing system: ordinary users do not get rewarded for their unique and quality content, and professional bloggers annoy their followers with commercial advertisement.
Monoreto is designed to provide solution for both above-mentioned problems, by introducing blockchain-based monetization mechanisms to its ecosystem. Also, the service will allow its users to publish their Monoreto content on more common social media platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram, and thus possibly reach more publicity and larger audiences.
The project’s key monetization tool are “likes” that the users’ content receives on the platform. Monoreto will convert users’ “likes” into tokens and introduce mechanisms to encourage users to rate other publications. Each token in the platform will be equivalent of $0,5, its whitepaper states, but it will be possible to provide every “like” with larger value. Therefore, Monoreto users also can become active investors in the projects, which choose the platform as their promotion and crowdfunding tool. Also, the project aims to serve as talent promotion tool, by creating environment where aspiring photographers or motion designers can gain not only attention but actual investments for their future projects. Moreover, the platform developers plan to promote Monoreto as a charity promotion tool, by taking 10% of the profits to develop philanthropic projects, its whitepaper says.
Also, as the platform mainly deals with visual content, which often becomes a victim of copying and illegal usage, Monoreto promises to contribute to copyrights holders’ protection development on the Internet. The platform will introduce “an automated mechanism to check content uniqueness when it is uploaded to the social network”, says the project’s whitepaper.
While the platform’s endeavor to compete with such social media giants as Facebook and Instagram seems difficult, its blockchain-based approach towards content monetization, commitment to copyrights’ protection and intention to impact on the charity fundraising processes make it a well-established player in social media world.
Advantages: a clear focus on visual content, clear prospects of future development, linked to the existing social media platforms.
Disadvantages: no messaging services within the platform.
Nimses: a source of unconditional crypto income or yet another controversial blockchain scam?
The project gained a lot of attention in 2017, as it claims to allow its users to earn crypto profit with each minute of their lives. Nimses developers are eager teach the platform’s users to value their time and wisely share it with other people. Users receive nims, the platform’s cryptocurrency, in a passive way, even if the Nimses application is not being actively used. Nims are spent on every activity on the platform: posting an article or a photo, adding someone as your friend etc. While the project’s internal cryptocurrency is officially supposed to be used only within Nimses ecosystem, the team of developers promises to introduce a Nimses Goods service in the near future, through which it will be possible to buy real things, even a motorbike, with nims, the platform adds claim.
Nimses make quite an interesting case, as the level of attention it got in Russia was so high, that people and small enterprises attempted to use the platform’s cryptocurrency in real life. A coffee shop in Moscow and a restaurant in Saint-Petersburg even tried to accept nims for real coffee and food for a while. However, it turned out that the developers banned all the deals with Nimses cryptocurrency outside the platform’s ecosystem and were not interested to convert nims into any real value.
Also, the users who tried to buy real goods for nimses claim that these kinds of activities could only be tracked through their messaging within the platform, which is supposed to be private. But the fact that some users were banned from Nimses after purchasing a cup of coffee for nims, raises a question whether platform administration has access to the users’ private settings and undermines the whole philosophy of blockchain-based social media.
Advantages: a well-designed marketing, a fresh approach towards cryptocurrency receiving scheme.
Disadvantages: vague development prospects, unsatisfying technical support, disappointing cases of audience outreach from the team.