February 16, 2023 - 7 min read
More than half of the world’s population now has access to social media, which has transformed how we connect and communicate. Social media is arguably one of modern life’s indispensable elements and has many fascinating features. Our lives are undoubtedly more convenient given our ability to crowdsource information.
Social media has had a huge impact on public opinion, cultural values, and political debate. However, several significant concerns with centralized social media have arisen as time has passed. For example, users of centralized social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram have voiced privacy concerns because these sites collect a lot of user activity and personal information that could be sold to third parties.
This data might only be used for marketing purposes, but it could also expose users to hacking and cybercriminal attacks. As a result, there is a chance that users’ private information and online activities will be abused, and user trust has been demonstrably and habitually proven to be misplaced by the custodians of our data.
Additionally, individuals have limited opportunity to appeal or challenge decisions made by centralized social media platforms to filter or remove content that they deem improper or in violation of their terms of service. For many users, this lack of control over one’s own content can be unsettling. This has obviously prompted discussions on why these entities are entrusted with so much power, while at the same time avoiding any sort of accountability via transparent oversight.
Likewise, the algorithms employed by centralized social media platforms frequently favor content that supports users’ pre-existing beliefs and opinions, resulting in echo chambers and a heightened sense of political polarization that could contribute to the spread of false information or propaganda, which can have severe real-world repercussions. Due to all of the issues with centralized social media, interest in decentralized alternatives that provide users with more privacy, security, and control has continued to gain favor.
As opposed to centralized social media platforms, decentralized social media is run mainly by its users. Giving users control over their data, interactions, and overall social media experience is essential for a just and equitable network for all. Web3 social networks are an excellent place for freedom of speech and expression since they don’t censor speech or alter content, and they provide resistance against censorship Examples include decentralized social media sites like Steemit, Mastodon, and Hive.
Decentralized social media use blockchain to operate differently from centralized platforms. The public’s confidence in social media privacy is being restored by the blockchain’s visible and cryptographic features. Since it uses a network of nodes to store and validate user data, people can own and control their data. Users’ profile photographs, details, messages, and interactions are decentralized and stored on the network. Social networks employ the decentralized InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), a file storing and sharing system suitable for Web3, to shield user data from misuse and exploitation.
In addition, it is hard for attackers to predict which IPFS node a specific piece of data is stored in, which eliminates the possibility of hacking and censorship. Consensus mechanisms will validate transactions and ensure the accuracy of the data on the network. Users of decentralized social networks are recognized and authenticated using a secure public key infrastructure. Decentralized social media sites can also employ tokens to compensate users for posting content, authenticating transactions, or participating in governance. Together, these technologies create a digital communication environment that is more user-controlled, equitable, and safe.
The CEO of BitShares, Dan Larimer, founded the decentralized social media site Steemit in 2016. It runs on the Steem blockchain. The platform maintains all data as a chain of interconnected blocks. Steemit is philosophically and aesthetically similar to Reddit since its creators used it as their primary inspiration while designing a social network. On Steemit, users may interact with one another and build communities depending on their interests. Users of the platform can get ownership over their data, own it, and receive STEEM tokens in exchange for sharing relevant content. A post receives more STEEM tokens, the more likes and other responses it receives.
Hive is a decentralized social media platform released in March 2020 as a hard fork of the Steem blockchain. It is a community-driven platform like Steemit that pays users to produce and curate content. Users can sign up for the platform, safely share material using fair value distribution, and receive rewards in Hive.
D.Tube is a decentralized video-sharing platform that uses the IPFS peer-to-peer network and the STEEM blockchain’s architecture. Users should be able to share movies and create content in a secure environment. D.Tube differs from other video-sharing networks because it uses DTUBE tokens to pay users for their contributions.
Compared to centralized platforms, decentralized social media has a number of significant benefits.
Since decentralized social media runs on a blockchain network, user data and activity are protected with higher security, anonymity, and privacy. Users now have more control over their personal data and can decide whether or not to share it. They use many decentralized servers to operate, considerably reducing the possibility of network malfunction. They also run on an open-source, transparent platform, which gives users more confidence in the system and makes it simpler to understand how their data is utilized.
Decentralized social media gives people back control over creating and sharing their own content. Since no centralized authority sets the rules, users are less likely to have their information blocked or removed without justification.
The finest decentralized social media platforms may offer more incredible monetization options for content producers, creators and curators. Several decentralized social media networks use tokens or coins to pay users for their contributions. Users can earn tokens by creating or curating top-notch content, connecting with other users, or taking part in platform governance.
They also let people get paid directly by other users and monetize their influence. These sources of income encourage the creation of helpful material and a more vibrant, healthy community.
Decentralized social media networks must overcome a lot of barriers, such as:
Users may find decentralized social media systems more challenging than centralized ones, which might undermine their comprehension of and confidence in the technology. A social media network becomes more approachable and user-friendly as its user base expands. The limited user base of decentralized social networks makes it challenging to sustain user interest and retention. Members are frequently drawn to centralized networks where they can be a part of a larger community with millions of users and have an established network of friends.
Due to the lack of a central authority to make decisions and settle disputes, decentralized networks might be challenging to manage. Users might argue as a result of this. However, moderators are present on centralized social media sites to enhance monitoring and management. Conversely, in decentralized social networks, the lack of moderators allows the dissemination of inaccurate or misleading information and objectionable content for extended periods without intervention, potentially affecting innocent readers.
Decentralized social networking systems’ visual interface quality may differ. Users prefer social media platforms with intuitive user interfaces that are easy to use and navigate at all times. However, compared to centralized platforms, many decentralized social media networks have interfaces that are less aesthetically pleasing and less user-friendly. Ultimately, the platform in concern and the resources used to design it determine the interface’s quality.
Decentralized platforms rely on a network of nodes to validate transactions, which can slow down the process and limit their ability to manage large volumes of data and traffic. As a result, decentralized platforms suffer many scalability and performance limits, including processing time. Bandwidth constraints can also be problematic because decentralized platforms must sync data across a vast network of nodes, which slows down performance. Interoperability can also be a problem for decentralized platforms since they may need help to connect to other platforms and systems and exchange data with them, which limits their capacity to integrate with existing infrastructure. To become more widely used, decentralized social media systems must overcome these scalability and performance issues.
Decentralized social media can have a significant impact on how digital communication evolves. Future research will focus on user-centric social ecosystems based on individual data ownership as more and more networks develop from decentralized roots. Additionally, the social media world will have better privacy and security, censorship resistance, and a more equitable distribution of resources.
Decentralized social media must overcome user acceptance, scalability and performance limitations, revenue generation, governance, content moderation, and network effects. The success of decentralized social media will depend on these platforms’ ability to provide a user-friendly interface, attract a substantial user base, and get past the performance and scalability problems preventing its growth. Furthermore, it can take time before decentralized social media sites are relevant and helpful to a broad enough audience.
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