Q&A: Dan Romero and Jesse Pollak think this may be Farcaster’s ‘inflection point’
Farcaster’s co-founder and popular Frames ecosystem Base creator Jesse Pollak talked about the release of Frames and Farcaster’s future plans
Farcaster and Visuals6x/Shutterstock, Adobe modified by Blockworks
Social media protocol Farcaster saw its active users increase by nearly a factor of ten after it released Frames, a feature allowing apps to run inside of posts on Warpcast.
Frames launched Jan. 26 on Warpcast, an X-like client built atop Farcaster by the Farcaster team. Frames allow small apps to run natively, sometimes with crypto rails, within the Warpcast feed. It spawned a raft of hackathons and in-app Girl Scout cookie orders — alongside speculators hoping for airdrops.
Blockworks spoke with Farcaster co-founder Dan Romero and Base founder Jesse Pollak about Farcaster’s big couple weeks and plans for the future.
Keep reading for excerpts from Blockworks’ interview.
Blockworks: Let’s start with Frames because that’s really been the story of the past week and a half. Walk me through the new feature.
Romero: Frames make a cast, our version of a post, interactive. That’s the simplest way to describe it.
Frames allows you to display an image and then up to four buttons or a text box. That canvas, even though it’s so simple, allows developers full creative freedom to build whatever they want, and it will natively show up within Farcaster apps like Warpcast.
Blockworks: I want to gauge your thoughts on financialization in consumer crypto apps. Frames let you interact with assets, but there are also polls and other things. So how do you balance the financial and non-financial aspects?
Romero: The way I think about Farcaster is, we wanted to build a credibly neutral social network. That means developers have permissionless access to everything on the network, can permissionless build on the network, and ultimately if it works, it provides distribution. Importantly, that distribution belongs to the person doing the distributing.
And so I think in a world where that works — and you know, it’s taken us a while to even get kind of on the map, three years of banging your head against the wall in some ways — the usage of that distribution is going to mimic everything that happens on Twitter, right? Distribution is distribution.
I think in the case of crypto, obviously, if you have a wallet, there’s naturally going to be probably a bit more financialization for some of the use cases.
But I want to emphasize this: I think some of the most creative Frames aren’t overly financialized.
5/9 is a pretty well known anon crypto developer on Twitter. That person built a frame: on-chain chess, and if you beat the computer, you get an NFT. So I don’t think anyone would look at that and say, ‘Oh, that’s hyper-financialization.’ It’s more, ‘Oh cool, I can play around with this app, and if I win I get a little marker that says yeah, I’m actually good at chess.’
If you give developers something to play with, they’re going to surprise you with their creativity, and I actually think if Farcaster works, it will shift the narrative around crypto from purely this kind of speculative, financialized thing to — it’s like the internet, you can do anything you want with this new platform and actually emphasize the idea that you as a consumer or user can have real ownership in whatever experience you’re working with.
Blockworks: Warpcast is a client of the Farcaster protocol, whereas if you look at X, the protocol and the client are collapsed. That’s a distinction that I can make, but why does that actually matter?
Romero: So to do a little history lesson, Twitter was not always like that. The original Twitter mobile apps were all third party clients. Twitter only had a website and they had an open API and there was a lot of innovation in the early days of Twitter — retweets, quote tweets, hashtags, “@” replies — all not native originally on Twitter, invented by third party developers.
I think it’s easy to forget that when you actually have a marketplace of ideas and any developer with a good idea can permissionlessly just go and build a new app on top of a protocol, you get way more innovation, better consumer experience, more consumer choice.
Someone was trading messages with me yesterday saying ‘Hey, do you support not safe for work content on Warpcast?’ And I said no, we don’t. A) we’re 12 people, we don’t have the team to do that kind of content moderation and B) it’s probably going to get us in trouble with Apple.
The reality is you don’t have to ask my permission. If you want to go build that type of client, maybe you go build a website that’s responsible in that sense, like you can get in some pretty gnarly stuff, but no one has to ask to add that to Farcaster.
Warpcast, just like an email client, can decide what content is shown to our users by default in the same way that an email client like Gmail can decide what is spam, but that’s not a universal policy.
A world where we can get to many different clients that suit many different communities and niches, I think that’s really powerful.
Blockworks: Ten years down the line, if we’re living in the Farcaster version of the internet, what does that look like? How’s it different from today?
Romero: A billion-plus daily active users of the protocol, thousands of apps and services and any interest you have or any quirk in terms of the way you wish something existed.
And I think in a world where Farcaster achieves the kind of vision that we have is that every single one of those Farcaster users is on-chain, so every time someone is coming onto Farcaster, they have an Ethereum wallet created under the hood.
With Frames, I think increasingly you’re going to see ways for people to have their first on-chain experience in a totally seamless way and the vast majority of those are going to end up on Base.
If Farcaster achieves what we’re hoping to achieve over the next 10 years, maybe 80% of Americans have some type of crypto, whether they think about it as crypto or not. It could be a Taylor Swift ticket that’s a collectible, that’s fine. You don’t have to know how an ERC-721 works.
Pollak: Yeah, and it’s happening fast. I feel like we’ve all been saying for the last few years, ‘Oh, we’re getting close to the inflection point where we’re gonna start to see real product growth.’
I really feel and I think a lot of the other people feel like two Fridays ago was that inflection point when Farcaster launched Frames, in that we now finally have all the tools.
We have low-cost layer-2s, managed wallets, better identity like Farcaster, and then the social graph and feed that will get us into viral consumer growth. I think it’s gonna happen faster than people anticipate and make a massive impact on the world for the better by bringing people on-chain, where they’re going to have ownership of their creativity.
They can get paid for it, they’re gonna have a graph that’s theirs, they can’t be de-platformed by these large centralized corporations, and everything’s going to be open source, transparent and decentralized, which is going to be a much stronger platform for enabling developers to build these next-generation applications because they know that they’ll always have the right to build for these users as well.
Romero: Yeah, I think that’s really important. The last 10-15 years, there was this initial gold rush with mobile and it was this totally new paradigm for developers. As that S-curve adoption curve has matured, there’s been a lot more value extraction from the platforms themselves, whether that’s cutting off the access for APIs at both Meta and and Twitter or the app stores.
I’m optimistic that in a world where the platform is, at its root, a transparent permissionless public blockchain, developers actually have a lot more freedom and that means consumers have a lot more choice.
I think it’s a huge net positive for the world, but I think to reverse a trend of centralization is actually a pretty rare thing. I don’t even know if I can think of a historical example. There’s a great book called The Master Switch that talks about every new communications technology that comes out start[ing as] decentralized and ends up very, very centralized.
I’d like to think that crypto could be the exception to the rule, where by pushing the core of these big networks to a credibly neutral decentralized platform like Farcaster, you actually remove the ‘don’t be evil’ thing that the companies say and you move to something like ‘can’t be evil.’
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
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