For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been exclusively writing about blockchain-based social media platforms and every day, I find a new project that I’ve never heard of before. Projects built on Steem, EOS and Ethereum. Somehow, 9 years after the birth of Bitcoin, developers realized that social media is, most likely, the killer app the industry has been waiting for.
Today, I want to dig deeper into the state of where we are at, the opportunities, the challenges and the dangers of this burgeoning industry.
Blockchain-Based Social Media – Is it the blockchain killer app?
Let me ask you: What kind of application are the most downloaded and uses on a daily basis in the world right now? That’s a rhetorical question but you get the point. Social media is a part of almost everybody’s life for better or worst.
We take pictures of family and friends, we date, we share memories and mourn on social media. It is a medium where men and women are represented to the same degree.
Since I joined the blockchain world in 2013, I’ve wondered WHAT would bridge the gap between the highly geeky and utopian crypto enthusiast community and the real world. Today, without a doubt, I know that it is through blockchain-based social media.
What Problem Does It Solve?
The goal of any token is to be distributed to as many people as possible. The first way was through mining rewards but then, economies of scale made it difficult to participate profitably. Then came airdrops, where a certain community gets rewarded by another community. Finally, we have the ICO that opened a brand new way to raise capital.
The above strategies are too complex for the average person to participate in.
Since Steem was introduced in 2016, people were able to get tokens with upvotes. The Steem blockchain managed to put tokens into tens of thousands of people hands. Whether people want to acknowledge it or not, this was a revolutionary idea. This strategy for distributing token is the most efficient I can think of. Now dozens of projects are trying to improve on this formula and this competition brings in very innovative ideas to the table.
Bridging the Gap
I’m a marketer by trade so whenever I think about technology, I put myself in the shoe of the lowest common denominator I can think of. Someone who doesn’t care how the light switch works but do enjoy keeping in touch with his friends and family.
For the average person, understanding cryptocurrency and blockchain is beyond their mental model nor do they care. Buzzwords such as:
- Censorship Resistant
…make these people eyes glaze. The average person doesn’t see any benefits to any of the above…so why should they care? If people don’t inherently see a benefit for them right now, no amount of explaining why they should care will bridge the gap.
With these people it seems, the more you explain the technology, the less they care.
Now let’s take the approach of social media…where one person gets to realize that it’s possible to make a little bit of money doing what they are already doing on Facebook or Instagram. This is a much easier way to get those people onboard.
Social media is the perfect bridge since the new user simply do what he would do elsewhere…but this time for rewards.
Identity / One Person One Vote
I started participating in the Steem blockchain in May 2016. This experience thought me a lot about blockchain-based social media. Many of the challenges that the Steem blockchain faced were not problems that were easily foreseeable. They were trailblazers. One of the problems this project face is how much people try to game the system for rewards.
The blockchain is an open database that anybody can build bots on. One person can have thousands of accounts which are programmed to game the system in one way or another. Few blockchain-based social media are taking this problem seriously. The only one I’ve encountered was OnoSocial though, their solution was a little too intense for my taste(KYC/AML).
Steem’s solution at the beginning, to avoid Sybil attacks, was to have people who have staked a lot of tokens to get more rewards and dictate the hot/trending feed. But that completely destroy the ability of the system to find the best content as Reddit does(aka the Wisdom of the Crowd).
Steem’s proposed solution are oracles combined with community-centric tokens but that has yet to be implemented and tested.
So the solution to solve abuse while providing high-quality content to the end users as yet to be found and implemented.
The requirements to operate a blockchain on social media is beyond 99% of blockchain even hope to attain in terms of performance. Facebook alone has 52000 likes per second. That doesn’t include posts, comments or shares. That’s just for “likes”. Now imagine a blockchain on which Instagram, Facebook and Twitter would run…yeah, that’s a challenge.
Let’s compare these requirements with what the top 2 blockhains by marketcap can do right now:
- Bitcoin: 3 transactions per second
- Ethereum: 30 transactions per second
Anybody saying that they will build a fully functional blockchain-based social media at scale on top of Ethereum is delusional. Their death would be to have success in their venture.
As of now, the only 2 platforms that actually have a shot at this are EOS and Steem. Steem has for the past 18 months almost entirely dedicated it’s resource to scaling while EOS boast of it’s ability to process millions of transactions per second (yet to be seen). Steem and EOS are far ahead but we aren’t even yet sure of their limits.
There are a lot more challenges that this space is facing and every new solution comes at a cost or compromise. As always, I will keep my nose close to the grindstone on the lookout for solutions and ideas that will bring this technology to the masses.