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For a number of years, it has been clear to many that social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, to name just two, have been collecting data related to its users. Their business models are predicated upon this, they sell this data to advertisers who then target you based on your preferences and activity. As users, we are the product as eloquently explained by Zeynep Tufekci in this video.
Conventional Social Media and Privacy
The cost of participation on Facebook is that you hand over access and control of your personal data to Mark Zuckerberg and his senior management team. When he was asked to share his own personal data recently Zuckerberg appeared quite protective of it here.
They are not alone, the amount of data that Google has on consumers is also staggering; consider the logged in searches you have made together with physical journeys when using Google Maps, for example. Amazon and Apple must also be considered in this context. The companies named here are merely representative, this is not an exhaustive list.
Understandably, forward thinking users of Social Media platforms have been looking for alternatives where they can maintain greater levels of privacy and control of their own data. In this context, the appeal and attraction of Social Media platforms powered by blockchain technology is very strong.
What is Blockchain Technology?
It was Satoshi Nakamoto who created the first blockchain database and the first bitcoin software on 9th January 2009. Blockchain technology is a distributed ledger system that allows for the transfer of value from point A to point B without an intermediary. Using the financial sector as an example, usually a bank or a company such as PayPal acts as the intermediary. With blockchain technology they are not part of the process, instead the blockchain itself acts as a shared database that securely and efficiently creates a log of digital transaction activity.
A lot of the early use cases for blockchain technology related to financial products, more specifically cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin was and remains the most significant of these cryptocurrencies, but blockchain technology is more than the platform on which cryptocurrencies are created.
It’s also a great technology for Social Media platforms because it is decentralised and transparent; data is secure and encrypted. Decentralised Social Media platforms have less censorship than traditional Social Media platforms. Blockchain technology offers users greater control over their transactions and data. Perhaps because of these benefits, there are already many Social Media platforms powered by Blockchain, as my list below demonstrates.
Launched on July 4th 2016 Steemit.com is the most well established of all Social Media platforms based on blockchain technology. Steemit is powered by the Steem blockchain. Central to the ethos of Steemit is idea that content creators are rewarded for the content they create, as opposed on any profits going to the owners of the platform. Rewards are paid in cryptocurrencies, specifically Steem and Steem Backed Dollars (SBD).
The voting power of those who upvote your content determines how much any particular post will earn. In March 2018 Steemit had a total user base of 920,800 and the number of monthly active users was between 50-60,000. Steemit has a current Alexa rating of 1297, this means that it is the 1297th most popular website in the world. The site’s domain authority rating is 71.5, which is very good. People are really using the platform and it has some quality backlinks.
The concept of rewarding content creators for their uploads is a good one, unfortunately the execution of this is still problematic because there is a heavy concentration of Steem Power in the hands of just a few people. Most users do not really have very much influence at all. For more of a detailed look at Steemit please read, Conventional Social Media vs Steemit.
Dock. io positions itself as a convenient Ethereum blockchain based data exchange for all your profile data and professional networks. Instead of creating multiple profiles, access and login points, with all the security compromises that can create, why not store all of your data in a decentralised location that allows you to maintain control? It should simplify job searching help freelancers looking for new projects. Following a successful Initial Coin Offering (ICO) that raised $20 million Dock.io is now aggressively targeting user acquisition and has 200,000 users, as of March 2018. It is possible to earn cryptocurrency rewards for inviting new users to the platform.
It is still very much in its early stages. From my own personal experience, I found the integration of data from LinkedIn onto Dock.io to be a complicated process. Also, user discoverability needs to be improved; when I searched for users who had told me they were on the platform I could not find them to connect. I am sure that they issues will be addressed and other features will be added. You can read the dock.io white paper here.
Ong.social describes itself as a decentralised social network and is powered by both the Ethereum and Waves blockchains. Ong users can use it as a social dashboard to post on decentralised and centralised platforms. Like Steemit, it is possible to earn cryptocurrency rewards for posting content. As a content marketer I have made a quick assessment of the website, it is has a low domain authority rating according to Moz and the last piece of content published was in August 2017.
4. Sapien Network
Sapien.network is a Social News platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Like Steemit, users will receive cryptocurrency rewards for posting content on the platform; on the Sapien Network the rewards are in SPN. The platform raised over $20 million in its ICO. Users of the platform will be able to post, add friends and create groups as you would expect on a social network. A quick analysis of the website leads me to believe that it is yet to gain any real traction, but that could change in the coming months. You can read the Sapien white paper here.
To understand APPICs I need to take you back to Steemit. Ned Scott, one of the founders of Steemit subsequently created Smart Media Tokens which are, ” A Token Protocol for Content Websites, Applications, Online Communities and Guilds Seeking Funding, Monetization and User Growth”. The full white paper for Smart Media Tokens can be read here. APPICs is one of the first Applications to take advantage of the SMT protocol and will launch in Q3 of 2018 on the Steem blockchain. It is described as a ‘Next Generation Social Network.’
Fortunately for me, I was able to speak face to face with APPICs founder Uma Hagenguth at the recent Blockchain Expo Global in London. Uma is an active user on Steemit and is aware of some its shortcomings.
When APPICs launches it will create a platform where content creators who post in categories will be able to create good visibility for their posts irrespective of the influence of other users who upvote it. They will also be able to earn cryptocurrency rewards in the form of APPICs tokens (XAP). APPICs is currently building a network of high profile influencers / endorsers from the music and fashion industries and it will be interesting to see how this translates into user acquisition numbers when the APP launches. At the time of writing, APPICs has just been through an ICO and raised over $4 million. You can read the APPICs whitepaper here.
Sola.ai is a decentralised social network within an App that pays you for the content that you create. The name Sola is an acronym for “social layer.” Payment is is in the form of SOL tokens based on the ERC20 standard. Unlike others decentralised social networks on this list, Sola incorporates native advertising into its business model. Users can purchase add free accounts. According to its website, Sola has over 920,000 users, a lot of these users originate from Plague which was a forerunner to Sola.ai.
Content distribution is controlled by an algorithm based on user actions, this is similar to StumbleUpon and contrasts with traditional social networks where content distribution is dependent upon connections. Each day users receive Action Points. Users view one card at a time, each card can either be ignored or endorsed, then the user can move onto the next card. When users endorse a card they ‘spend’ their Action Points to do so. You can read the Sola white paper here.
7. Props Project
The PROPS project is a decentralised Eco system of video applications on the Ethereum Blockchain. Rize is the name of the first PROPS app. Similar to other platforms mentioned above, the central idea is to pay content creators for the work that they create; creators earn cryptocurrency rewards in the form of PROPSs which is an ERC-20 token. PROPS is recruiting partners whose activity within the app creates the rewards pool. For example, one partner may create an ad supported platform and the revenue generated goes into the rewards pool for users. You can read the PROPS white paper here.
8. WildSpark.me by Synereo
Wildspark.me describes itself as an Attention Economy. Similar to many of the platforms above, creators are rewarded for their content uploaded to the platform. Rewards are attributed by other users in the form of AMPs, AMPS are the cryptocurrency that drives the WildSpark economy. Rewards can also be earned by curating content. Initially Wildspark was based on the bitcoin blockchain but at the time of writing it was transferring to the Ethereum blockchain. This must present quite a lot of technical challenges. You can read the Wildspark white paper here.
9 . Indorse
Indorse can be thought of as a decentralised version of LinkedIn, based on the Ethereum blockchain. Users post achievements that are then validated by others within their network. Once confirmed, these achievements earn users rewards in the form of IND tokens. These tokens can be traded or used to purchase services like advertising or Company pages. Potential success on Indorse is linked to your level of activity. You can read the Indorse white paper here.
Decent.ch is an open source content distribution platform based on DCore; DCore is an independent blockchain. Users can post on the platform and set the price consumers need to pay to access it. The consumers of the content (other users) decide if it is good content. Rewards are in the form of DCT tokens, which is the designated cryptocurrency for Decent ecosystem. DCT can be traded on Exchanges.
11. Obsidian Secure Messenger
Obsidian Secure Messenger (OSM ) can be thought of as a more secure version of Whatsapp, based on the Stratis blockchain. To be precise, it is a Stratis fork. Users of the messenger system can send anonymous messages that are encrypted end to end. No private messages are permanently stored on the blockchain. As it is currently envisaged, the OSM is not a social network. I have included it on this list because additional features and a community may be built with the Messenger app at the core. On the Obsidian Platform website it is written,
‘The intended goal for the platform is to host a wide array of applications aimed at individual users – the masses, so to say. The Obsidian Secure Messenger is an insane proof-of-concept which shows the viability of such a project.’
ODN is the coin that drives the Obsidian Platform, users can pay other users via OSM using ODN. You can read more about OSM here.
12. Social X
Social X describes itself as a community-driven decentralised Social Media platform based on the Ethereum blockchain. Similar to many of the platforms listed above, users can earn rewards for posting photos and videos. Users upvote content they like with ‘Superlikes’, these rewards are paid in the form of SOCX tokens. Alternatively, they can also choose to keep their uploads private if they want. Social X also incorporate a license management market, encrypted messenger and live stream functionality. You can read the Social X white paper here.
13. Project V
I cannot really write very much about ‘Project V’ yet. It is at the Pre-ICO stage. Their website is not public and neither is their whitepaper. Fortunately for me, I was able to have a long conversation with the CEO at the recent Blockchain Expo Global in London. Here’s what I can confirm. It will be a Social Media platform powered by blockchain technology but it will not be restricted to one blockchain. This new platform has a robust user acquisition strategy and a network of multinational partners that will enable it scale quickly. When I am able to publish an update, I will update this paragraph, so be sure to bookmark this blog post.
Before I go any further, thank you for reading this far! I am well aware that this is a much longer post than usual.
The desire for greater privacy and control of personal data are common themes across most of the new wave of Social Media platforms powered by Blockchain. As is the need to reward content creators for their content . It remains to be seen which of the platforms go onto to create real traction and appeal to the masses. Clearly, Social Media powered by Blockchain technology is already a crowded space.
In Europe, there is also a major challenge ahead. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into effect on 25th May 2018 is at odds with the reality that what’s on the blockchain stays on the blockchain, usually as a permanent record. Those platforms that can demonstrate GDPR compliance and have a robust user acquisition strategy will more than likely prove to be the winners.
If you like this post you will also like, Conventional Social Media vs Steemit.
Also, you should read this post, Content Hacks: Learning From Your Most Popular Post.
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