Among the most significant developments in 2017 that even non-crypto enthusiasts would agree upon was blockchains sudden explosion in popularity. With Bitcoin skyrocketing (and later plunging) in price as well as the emergence of bitcoin backed futures contracts, this once obscure field managed to acquire the attention of the mainstream business community at large.
As experts began to speculate on the future applications of blockchain technology, social media giants began to recognize that their own businesses will be ripe for transformation in the coming years if blockchain innovations continue to develop at its current rate. In light of recent events, such as the recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, the general public has already begun to consider alternatives. Here are a few reasons how a blockchain-backed solution can improve the social media landscape.
Improved Data Security
As mentioned above, the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal brought data mining to the attention of the entire world. Experts and the well-informed have known about how large tech companies such as Google and Facebook mine the data of their users and then sell that information to companies (or government bodies) for some time already. However, this is only one side of the issue.
General privacy is also a problem on social media. So much social media data is being siphoned off and stored for the goal of “research” without you knowing it that it’s easy for any party to deduce much of your personal identity. This glut of information, called by experts as your social media fingerprint, is accessible by most major platforms and websites. For example, it’s very easy for sites to know which social media platforms you are currently logged in on (if you don’t believe us, you can test it out for yourself here).
Blockchain-based social networks promise to help people feel secure that any residual private information including what content they share, where they live, and other details remain secure.
Prevent Content Manipulation
The phrase “fake news” has become a common phrase over the past several months. Regardless of your political affiliation, the idea is that third parties like bots, advertisers, and questionable news providers are “gaming” existing social media ranking protocols on platforms such as Facebook to help rank more sensational news higher than it otherwise would naturally.
One Polish blockchain start-up called Userfeeds is already working on this issue, having already raised $800,000 in seed funding from a variety of investors (including Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsamh). The company is trying to challenge the way information and content is discovered, sorted, and ranked on the internet, as opposed to our current system. Instead, the idea is to create a method of content ranking that rewards users for feedback instead of the current situation, where publishers are incentivized for flashy clickbait titles. Which brings us to our second subject…
Rewarding Actual Value in Social Networks
Blockchain technology can help revitalize social networks with a new system of rewarding participation and contribution. In a way, this concept is already being put in practice in the form of reward tokens – a unique cryptocurrency used for specific social networks as a way to gauge a participant’s social reputation. Earned over time as a reward for actively participating in the network, these tokens are one way to incentivize actual contributions and can easily be adapted to the world of social media/content sharing.
As is the case with most content sharing platforms such as YouTube, the bulk of their income comes from their ad-based business model. A portion of this income is then passed on to content producers who are compensated directly based on the popularity of their content. Other social media networks, such as Twitter, don’t reward popular contributors in the same way. While users can grow their own online presence, they don’t receive any direct compensation for any viral contributions they make to the platform. Social-media based tokens can help change this to better incentivize smaller producers to contribute.
Lastly, platforms such as YouTube that do compensate their contributors often have strict policies regarding monetization, creating an environment that some content creators see as toxic. Many non-blockchain alternatives are cropping up in a bid to guarantee content freedom, and the decentralized properties of blockchain technology can complement these services.
Increased Access to Content
In countries such as China and North Korea, citizens can be blocked by the government from accessing certain sites, social media platforms, news sources, and other content. While overt repression is an easy target for public-awareness, making sure that internet freedoms remain for the rest of the developed world is also an area that blockchain technology can contribute.
According to a report by the independent watchdog group Freedom House, less than 25% of worldwide internet users have access to a “free” internet, while 64% of users live in countries where internet access is either “partially free” or “not free” at all. While the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s) along with the TOR browser offers a way around these constrictions, some nations are beginning to crack down on these services.
DECENT, a blockchain project that secured $4 million during their ICO in 2016, is one of many companies working on this problem. By developing an open-source protocol to decentralize content, the idea is that no single entity can block valid access to content. Through their native DCT tokens, users can pay for content from others as well as publish their own content, removing intermediaries that can control or monitor the process. Although the idea of paying to access content might sound inefficient to western countries that are used to internet freedom, it’s a small price to pay in other areas where a free and open internet is only a pipe dream.
The Future of Blockchain Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have changed how start-ups go about raising capital for their business ideas, and non-conventional projects that didn’t have mainstream business appeal became able to flourish in a way that was impossible several years ago. These platforms, acting as a trusted third party that keeps money in escrow, allowed start-ups to directly connect with potential consumers and supporters while mitigating the risk of the recipient project running off with their donor’s proceeds.
But the problem behind these sites centralized crowdfunding platforms is that they tend to charge high fees, with Kickstarter charging 5% of total funds received along with an extra 3-5% for payment processing. With Blockchain crowdfunding via a distributed ledger, these expensive third-party platforms would no longer be needed, as prospective businesses and contributors can be connected and interact directly on a blockchain ecosystem.
Blockchain-backed crowdfunding networks can also increase the level of trust contributors have that their proceeds won’t disappear, as is sometimes the case with fraudulent ICO’s. Stratis, a UK-based company that’s working on its own blockchain development platform took a crowdfunding approach. Accepting only Bitcoins, they ended up raising over $100,000 for their project, with the funds being held in a multisig account and only one of the three keys is held by Stratis – a safety precaution that ensures no employee(s) can run off with the proceeds.
Much of the anticipated breakthroughs the blockchain technology can bring to the world of social media is already being experimented upon as of this date. Projects are springing up all over the world hoping to guarantee a greater access to accurate content that’s free for everyone while adequately rewarding the creators of said content. Like many other innovations in this field, it’s only a matter of time before these applications of blockchain technology become a staple in our increasingly connected world.
Also published on Medium.