Elon Musk’s recent takeover of Twitter has divided the internet. On the one hand, some users are high on the idea that the maverick billionaire’s uncompromising leadership style can truly realize the enormous potential of the microblogging platform. For others, acquisition sets an alarming precedent for the the future of the internet to the big one.
Think about it. Give someone the keys to one of the most used information portals on the Internet. What could go wrong? Even in the early stages of this takeover, we have already glimpsed the chaos to come.
So how do you avoid situations like this? By decentralizing the ownership of future social media platforms on the internet. It’s easier said than done, but several Web3 social media platforms want to make this idea a reality.
In Web2, you are largely beholden to the community standards of the platform you are publishing on. In theory, this shouldn’t be a problem. Social media should provide users with a way to connect and share constructively. Unfortunately, the reality of things is not so simple.
Despite Facebook’s best efforts, moderating the platform has proven to be a gargantuan task. Given that the platform is home to billions of users at this point, some activity on the site will inevitably end up falling through the cracks, unbeknownst to the powers that be. In some cases, those who do end up organizing with socially disastrous results.
In other cases, some perfectly valid moves are made in Facebook’s censorship algorithms, with affected users suddenly feeling completely stripped of their right to free speech. One such user was Jillian York, an activist who was temporarily banned from the platform for sharing partially nude images in support of a breast cancer awareness campaign.
Inevitably, this example has served as an important talking point for pundits pondering the future of social media. In a 2017 Wired article, Chelsea Barabas, Neha Narula, and Ethan Zuckerman pondered the feasibility of a decentralized social media network. According to them, the biggest obstacle to the mass adoption of these platforms was simply attracting users.
“Social networks, in particular, are hard to get started due to network effects – we join because our friends are there, not for ideological reasons like decentralization,” they wrote. While this may have been true then and is still largely true today, some argue that failure to question this notion could mean a catastrophic future for “the human race”, as explained by SingularityNET CEO and Founder Ben Goertzel in a January 2021 post on Coindesk.
So how can these social platforms serve humanity in a way that adds assess? Goertzel argued that it would be paramount for future social media platforms to be open source, decentralized in ownership, democratic in decision-making, and feature “explainable” implementations of the AI that powers content algorithms. of these hypothetical platforms.
While Web2 social giants like Instagram and Facebook are still in the early stages of their inevitable Web3 transitions, let’s take a look at some Web3-native social platforms in hopes of handling these new changes in the future. coming.
When you imagine a social media platform, what does it look like? Chances are it’s like Facebook with its endless stream of content in all its forms: written posts, images, videos, and now, even NFTs. But if Instagram and Twitter have shown us anything, social media platforms can thrive even if they only focus on one media format.
Enter Mirror. Touted as a true Web3 alternative to sites like Medium and Substack, Mirror prides itself on its decentralization thanks to the way it distributes its ownership among its user base. Everything you post on the site belongs to you indisputably. Plus, you’re free to mint anything you post on your site as NFT, set up subscription fees with crypto, and even set up a DAO using the site’s built-in tools.
The best part? Everything is designed to be easy to use. Users can freely read and write on the platform by connecting their crypto wallet. Thanks to its ease of use, Mirror has proven to be an invaluable platform for the Web3 community and project managers to post anything to the site. Whether it’s a detailed white paper or an elaborate shitpost, Mirror is a great option.
Looking for a more diverse content experience on Web3? Try MINDS. Essentially a decentralized version of Facebook, MINDS users can enjoy a full social media experience without any of the existential horrors lurking on Web2’s social platforms.
As such, MINDS is built around a feature set that exemplifies its ideals of internet freedom. According to its website, this involves providing users with a meaningful pathway for freedom of expression, the right to privacy, self-sovereignty, community governance, a fully functional crypto-economy, and an open platform. source. This last element is essential, as explained by Goertzel earlier.
In the MINDS whitepaper, its founders explain how the platform hopes to solve today’s biggest social media problems. Namely, traditional social media’s so-called “Big Brother” practices of “surveillance, manipulation of algorithms, and censorship.” To counter this, MINDS hopes to serve as a meaningful example for social platforms moving forward, particularly by keeping “its entire software stack free and open source.”
What if you could enjoy a social media experience totally separate from the (sometimes) oppressive algorithms that power it? This is what Lens Protocol hopes to achieve.
At its core, Lens Protocol is a decentralized social graph. Social graphs are big data maps that detail the connections between users and the things they care about. In today’s social media landscape, platforms own the social graphics of you and everyone you know and can do with them whatever they want. This is why you will sometimes see targeted ads with frightening precision.
What if you could own all this data? This is what Lens Protocol offers its users. It starts with an NFT of your social graph, which houses all of your online activity. Think of it as a social media equivalent to Soulbound Tokens (SBT).
While fully committing to the ideals of Web3 using social media platforms built in its image is a noble pursuit, the leap is not so easy. As stated in the 2017 Wired previously discussed article, most people join a social media platform because their friends are there, not because it is necessarily a reflection of their ideas and principles. But that might not be true forever.
Ironically, Web3’s core premise – of putting ownership of the Internet back in the hands of its billions of users – could lead to a resurgence of the kinds of Internet experiences that users enjoyed in the late 1990s and in the early 2000s. When everyone’s de facto homepage was Yahoo, users sought to create their own micro-communities centered around their hobbies, interests, and relationships. Web3’s vision of social media hopes to recapture that beautiful fragmentation of yesteryear and invites users to join and form communities based on something deeper than fandom: their ideals and principles.
So, will any of these Web3 social media platforms challenge the great titans of Web2? Maybe, maybe not. But if these monopolies ever implode, they’ll be there to help the internet make sense of the wreckage and ensure no one is hurt by the fallout.