Is it time for social media to become decentralised and based on blockchain?
For those of us who have had to deal with Facebook’s bigoted censorship laws and limited freedom of speech, it is very likely that if a viable alternative is presented to the public that is unregulated or regulated by consensus, it will be widely accepted.
While Facebook is a giant conglomerate with WhatsApp, Instagram also falling under its umbrella, the blockchain has a history of taking on giants and winning against them. The big centralized social media network started on a good note but since then it has since taken a very questionable stance against content ownership and collecting user data.
Back when WhatsApp was being acquired, Facebook made a pledge that it won’t use the user data or collect it any way. But now all of this is going to change and the move is being investigated and criticized by US-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) as it seemingly violates the Federal Trade Commission laws.
For those of you who think Facebook will eventually back off from this move, you are very much mistaken. It is an overreaching network and it can never let go of its inherent desire to remain in control of things and collect data as it deems fit.
It seems clear that a handful of people now control the social media of billions of people and have been regularly found guilty of compromising our private data. In this scenario, a truly decentralized social media platform, ideally based on blockchain is going to be necessary for the future.
But what are the advantages of a decentralized social medium over a centralized one?
There are some obvious advantages of a decentralized social media over a contemporary one. It is certainly a lot safer for everybody and their privacy is protected in a foolproof way over the blockchain. In centralized social media networks, the data is susceptible to being preyed upon as it is hosted in large data centers and dispersed in packets. Even if that is less likely, the social media networks have all kinds of copyrights over the data you have created on the websites. They can use your content as a copyright because you hand over all the rights to the content once you hit the I Agree button while joining Facebook.
What are the popular decentralized social media networks right now?
There are a number of decentralized social media networks that are quite decent overall. There is diaspora that I like which is a non-profit social media network, steemit.com which is a popular distributed social news service based on a blockchain database called Steem and then there is Dtube.video, a decentralized video sharing website like youtube. Don’t expect to compare them to the their centralized juggernauts but they will only get better with time, that’s for sure. Lets have a brief recap of all these social media networks and sharing platforms and see how they are faring.
Diaspora is based on a free Diaspora software that consists of a group of independently owned nodes (pods) which co-exist and co-operate to form a single network. There are millions and millions of Diaspora users right now.
As decentralized social media networks go, it cannot be called similar to either of the existing networks due to the nature of the pods. They are like channels or groups who can openly connect with each other. Perhaps it takes cue from the anarchist literature where groups of voluntary communities are seen as the beginning of a utopian society.
Anyway, the service is flawless, decentralized and not controlled or pirated by anyone including the creators. It doesn’t have the copyrights to the content created on it.
Diaspora allows integration with Facebook and content can be propagated to popular social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
Recently some extremist circles like ISIS were reportedly using a few diaspora pods for their propaganda and social media networking and recruiting. Due to the nature of the network, there was a problem in getting their accounts blocked. Perhaps universal consensus on blocking should be allowed in decentralized social media networks. It is much better than a single person deciding our fate in one of facebook’s sweatshops!
Steemit is a social new network that is based on a type of blockchain tech called Steem. The general idea is that instead of having central servers store all the information on a social media, you can save it on a distributed blockchain instead. The service produces tokens called STEEM and Steem Dollars to help propagate content. Images can also be uploaded on Steemit but other
Media has to be pointed from other sources. Just like Reddit, users can upvote and downvote posts and the most shared users get cryptocurrency tokens called STEEM and also USD-associated coins called Steem Dollars. People are also rewarded with more tokens for discovering and sharing unique content. Due to its direct award-giving capacity, it could be a great tool for attracting aspiring social media professionals. Each vote on Steemit counts but there is a concept called vote strength that is calculated by the STEEM Power a person has.
Say hello to the decentralized Youtube; Dtube.video is a relatively new platform and there aren’t many videos currently uploaded there so don’t bother to search for the latest stuff there. It is based on STEEM as a database and has awards waiting for you. Dtube.video is more of an experiment right now with none of the features of the popular video sharing websites that made them so popular. Using it can be a nightmare for non-technical people too. Lets hope the team can build on it and give us the decentralized award-based video viewing website that we deserve.