Can Web3 Conquer the Corporate Goliaths of Social Media?
Web2 social media platforms are among the largest companies in the world, with billions of users happily handing over their personal information
Twin Design/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks
There’s an old adage: if you’re not paying for a product, you’re probably the product.
The typical selling point of social media platforms to current and prospective users is “free” access to the largest online communities. User data, not fees, is the platform’s commodity.
Personal interests, ranging from shopping habits to political leanings are typically extracted for the benefit of the platform’s bottom line. Advertisers and counterparties glean as much intel from the data as they can and then push their products and ideas right back at the users.
It seems that social media participants are often willing to give up control of personal data in return for a seamless experience that connects with the largest number of potential friends or followers.
Stani Kulechov, founder and CEO of Aave and Lens Protocol, spoke to Blockworks about his aspirations for social media tech in an interview on the 0xResearch podcast.
Popular platforms provide usability in exchange for “more control over your social capital,” Kulechov says.
Lens Protocol’s profiles ‘secured by the blockchain’
Lens Protocol offers a “composable and decentralized social graph” for building out social network platforms, according to the company website. The tool takes traditional Web2 actions like profile creation, following, sharing and content amplification and turns them into “protocol guarantees by using smart contracts and using the blockchain,” Kulechov says.
“When you create a profile on Lens, that profile is secured by the blockchain,” he says, adding, “if you follow other users, that follower graph is also secured by the blockchain — and these are protocol guarantees.”
To address the challenge of speed versus convenience, Kulechov says that the Lens Protocol stack includes on-chain and off-chain elements. Momoka — an “optimistic scaling solution” launched by Aave — creates blockchain transactions, but stores them on a separate data availability layer.
“It’s basically a full hybrid stack,” he says.
This allows for much greater performance than current layer-1 blockchain tech can handle. It’s capable of dealing with the potentially massive flows of traffic that social media applications experience. “With something like Momoka,” Kulechov says, “you can take that big amount of data and just dump it directly to a data availability layer.”
“Do I need a blockchain to create a post or a comment? In those cases, maybe data availability is enough as a solution.”
“It’s up to the applications and then users to choose what they actually want and need” from the stack, he says.
Shifting the dynamics
The biggest benefit for users, according to Kulechov, is a shift in dynamics, from platforms holding most of the power to a system that is more “user-centric.” The social network service provides users with direct control of their online presence, he says.
“You as a user have oversight of your profile and your follower graph,” he says.
A user could decide to move to another Web3 social platform without having to start over. “You now have the choice and portability to take your followers and go to another experience or even use an alternative algorithm.”
“And because you’re tapping into the same user base,” Kulechov says, it will be “easier to bootstrap a social media application,” carrying followers from one place to another, “because you have that portability by default.”
“Because it’s open, it also means that anyone can compute and create algorithms for discovery, finding content, and finding peers to follow in a more open way.”
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