With stories of the recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data use being spread all over the news, old arguments are being renewed again. When we think of different industries blockchain technology can disrupt and revolutionize, we don’t normally think of social media. But should we? Let’s take a look at why exactly many in the industry support blockchain-based social media, and why you should too. In light of current events, is it the best option for users?
Traditional Social Media Gatekeepers
Big names in the social media game are hard to ignore. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram are household names at this point. While they all have different value propositions for customers, what’s one thing they all have in common? The answer: centralization.
All of the big social media companies have centralized structures. When it comes to users on the platform and their data, it’s all secured, stored, and sold by the platform. Facebook decides what information and spending habits of yours are useful enough to sell to advertisers, while other social media outlets do the exact same thing. There’s nothing wrong with this intrinsically. In fact, many people are more than happy to trade some data for more convenience. After all, surely advertisements that are targeted for your interests are of less annoyance than random Lego ads, right?
For some, the answer is yes, for others, no. Regardless of where one stands on the use of their data, centralization remains one of the largest critiques of this structure. So how would blockchain-based social media help solve any of these issues?
Benefits of Blockchain-Based Social Media
Besides issues revolving around user data, there is a lot of room for improvement in the social media sphere. We see some of the pain points in the social media industry, but how can we fix those with a blockchain-based social media approach? Let’s break down just some of the benefits below.
Control Over Your Own Data
A social media platform that takes advantage of blockchain technology and is running on the blockchain can offer one big advantage: decentralization. With a decentralized platform, users won’t be required to hand over all of their personal information to the social media giants of the past. Companies like Facebook and Twitter make a tremendous amount of money selling not only information to third parties, but advertising as well.
With a traditional social media platform, you are the product. They aren’t selling their platform, they’re selling the fact that you are there (along with a lot of other people). A decentralized platform, running on the blockchain, means there is no one single authority storing everyone’s data. Instead, users will be able to be in control over who has access to their own personal data. If you’d like to sell some of your data (search history, spending habits, posts, etc.) then you’d have that option. Most importantly, though, it wouldn’t be done by default, and you’d benefit from the sale directly.
Benefit From Your Data
Okay, so let’s say you’re the type of person who doesn’t mind their personal data being sold to advertisers. The way you see it, you’d rather see ads for that car you were looking at online instead of useless kitchen knife ads. Overall, you say “hey, this is an okay trade off.” But what about the money Facebook made off of your data, did you get a piece of that? No.
With a blockchain-based social media approach, users would be able to sell their own data, not just control it if they want to. A decentralized, blockchain-based social media experience would bring control over your own information back into your hands as a consumer. Traditional social media companies aren’t sharing any of the revenue brought in from selling your data and placing ads (other than not charging for the platform in some cases). There are some (rare) exceptions to this. Companies like YouTube and Twitch do offer users a chance to benefit from the ads placed on their videos. However, that benefit is really only for large content creators, not standard consumers. And remember, consumers are the reason the large platforms can run successful ad campaigns for third party companies .
A blockchain-based social media approach offers not only a focus on creators, but standard users too.
Directly Support Content Creators
This is one of the oldest questions in the creative industry: how to properly reward creative individuals. Whether it be writing, music, comedy, or visual art, creative industries have been working on this problem for a long time. Sometimes artists and creatives get paid up-front, sometimes they receive royalties or ad revenue, and now: crowdfunded support.
Blockchain-based social media can bring that last point to the forefront of the industry. Instead of paying content creators with ad revenue or from a third party, blockchain-based social media applications can solve the problem from within. We don’t need to have long, drawn out revenue schemes. Instead, a decentralized platform allows users to directly support creators they like.
Steemit happens to be one great example in recent history, though there are many focusing on this broad concept. Users are able to use utility tokens from the blockchain-based social media platform to directly contribute to content creators. This means we don’t need to rely on third party advertisers, sponsors, and other revenue structures for supporting the creators we love.
Some other examples of this already exist, though not blockchain-based. Companies like Patreon, Medium, and many others similar “crowdfunded content” models, but without the decentralization.
2018 is likely to be an incredibly interesting year for the future of social media. With the advent of a large focus on blockchain technology and distributed systems, it’s only a matter of time until the industry realizes the truly disruptive nature of the distributed ledger in our social lives.