Social networks were the flagships onboarding many new users to web2 in its early days. They became central to the way we connected with friends, family, and colleagues. Today, they’re the prism through which we see ourselves as a society.
Big Tech behemoths have tipped the scales too far in their own favor with walled gardens and exploitive terms. All while reaping enormous returns from our personal data. But disillusionment is growing.
We’re waking up to the realities of one-sided bargains struck with centralized social platforms. Chinks in their shiny armor are becoming visible. Meta, Facebook’s parent, recently experienced a revenue decline for the first time, while profit has fallen off for the third straight quarter. And, Meta shares have dipped, part of a downturn that began when it reported a drop in Facebook usage at the end of last year.
Finally, Meta users and media partners are realizing that they can’t rely on these platforms. Instagram recently made a sudden change to its feed format to become more like TikTok. Users were outraged. Celebrity creators that rely on the platform like the Kardashians even protested. Intrusive advertising and lack of transparency further contribute to the dislocation now felt by many users.
Twitter is faring worse. Elon Musk has openly talked about changing the core dynamics of the platform’s functionality. The saga of Musk’s stalled acquisition is headed for court. Conflicting claims and counterclaims are doing little to enhance Twitter’s reputation, or reassure account holders that their best interests will be served.
Web2: Losing Control
These are just some of the problems we’ve come to associate with centralized social media. Data leaks, such as the one experienced by 533 million Facebook users across 106 countries, have exposed vast amounts of personal information. The sharing of troves of full names, phone numbers, email addresses, and profile details leaves victims vulnerable to criminal attacks. And most of us now realize that platforms themselves harvest and sell user data for it to be raked over and exploited by advertisers. For many, this feels like a breach of trust, as well as an unacceptable infringement of privacy.
Control of content – or lack of it – is another drawback. Creators opening an account with Instagram must allow it to “use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate and create derivative works” of their content. Feeds curated by platform algorithms are increasing bias and polarization.
Decentralized platforms offer viable alternative
What if there was a viable alternative? One where users could stay safe and retain ownership of their content – or even of the platform itself?
Blockchain-based technologies have now advanced to the point of providing viable solutions for these web2 pain points. Decentralized social media offers the chance to rethink the relationship between social networks and their users, from the ground up rather than the top down.
Decentralized architecture means there does not have to be a single platform owner. Web3 can also enable users to guide the platforms they use and own their social communities. These facts result in a totally different dynamic. It obliterates any requirement to sign away content distribution rights. Or, one day find the platform where you publish has transformed into an entirely different product. Web3’s unique ability to define and protect ownership now empowers creators to share and monetize their work as they see fit.
Web3’s perceived complexity has, until now, inhibited mass adoption. But companies able to build easily navigable bridges from web2 will be well placed to attract the flow of new users. My co-founders and I created DSCVR (pronounced “Discover”) with exactly this principle in mind. Our axiom being, “If you’re capable of using social media in web2, you’re capable of using DSCVR.” Another hurdle for mainstream adoption has been user experience (UX). I’m confident we now have the tools to address that.
Web2 vs Web3: Inbuilt opportunities for monetization
Changing social communities, based on blockchain, have inbuilt opportunities for monetization. Most blockchain-native applications require a web3 wallet, for instance, in order to access goods and services. New wallets come with hard-to-remember addresses consisting of long strings of letters and numbers. They also generate a “seed phrase” (the equivalent of a master password) that must be kept safe or memorized for future reference. So creating a wallet and then linking it to a new social profile can be a challenge for those new to web3.
DSCVR’s frictionless sign-up process includes a native wallet that can be used straight away. NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) can be airdropped directly into a user’s profile, or transferred out of it, with no additional setup required.
DSCVR rewards great content with NFTs, which can be retained and enjoyed or traded for profit. Blockchain infrastructure enables communities to operate tipping, gifting, gating and even commerce functions. For the latter, NFTs are used as a pass to paid-for events, or as a paywall for exclusive content. Afterward, they remain valued collectibles.
Token gating, whether free or monetized, can be used to secure community privacy and confidentiality if that’s the preferred option. In the future, communities could even choose to operate marketplaces, auctions, or run promotions collectively. Monetization can thus be shared with the users that fuel the platform, not just those that build and operate it.
Community is paramount
All social media platforms serve intrinsic human desires to build communities, join networks and feel connected. How we manage those connections, set rules and responsibilities should be a matter for each community, not a centralized overlord.
Web3 social platforms foster discussion and debate based on an ethos of transparency and collaboration far removed from web2 manipulative oversight. They should also offer the chance to divert from straitjacket templates.
At DSCVR we agreed it was important to have a comprehensive set of community management tools that can be used – or not – to customize community areas (known as “portals”) to a high level. This personalization applies to function as well as form. Portal members build together, with the ability to take on specific membership roles and easily assign the relevant permissions to carry out agreed functions.
Web3 alternatives are empowering users to take back control. Building and growing new communities takes time but the seeds have been sown. We have new visions of what successful communities look like and can become. Places where we have ownership of our digital communities. And where creative work and great ideas benefit the originator as much as the shareholder.
This is the true power of decentralization. And why it’s going to change how we all think about social networking.