Can blockchain reform the current social media platform?
In the past decade, social media platforms have experienced tremendous growth for both numbers of players and users. To understand their growth, let’s take a look at the growth of Facebook’s users. Facebook achieved 1 billion users in 2012 from just 100 million users in 2008. These numbers were equal to six years growth of internet users. A recently published report, Digital in 2018, from We Are Social and Hootsuite reveals that there are 4 billion internet users today and more than three-quarter of them are active social media users as shown in the following figure.
This staggering growth changes, not only the landscape of human interactions, but also the way information is being used. These changes have allowed individuals or organisations to harvest substantial benefits from social media usage; some even manage to monetize their user accounts. Nevertheless, the dark side of current social media platforms has started to catch up, and people have become more aware of their vulnerabilities. They have been scrutinized for the privacy of users’ data, monetization of users’ content, and, last but not least, fake news (authenticity of the materials) on their platforms.
When blockchain technology resurfaced a few years back, some smaller players recognized its potential to change the current social media landscape. These companies introduced blockchain based social media platforms with promises of minimizing or even eliminating the negative side of the current social media platforms. Which benefits do these new players offer?
Data verification. Bots are one of the major issues in the current social media settings. As virtual markets grow, data verifications become an essential part to ensure leaner transaction processes. The usage of blockchain technology can enhance the users’ verification to improve trust. Further, the usage of blockchain will ensure the distribution of users’ contents based on proved information and traceable data spread. Thus, minimizing the range of fake content.
Decentralized platform. How do creators monetize their content? Mainstream social media platforms manage the users’ content centrally, which allows them to dictate the flow of information. This restriction means that they can decide how the data is being managed, how users get paid over their content, and what kind of content is acceptable. Blockchain technology offers a decentralized market for data management, which implies no single organisation has control over the network. With this technology, published content cannot be erased from the system, and its payments are made based on smart contract. It also allows users to control their data and get paid for it without any interventions. So, how does it work? Indorse, for instance, rewards its users with IND tokens for providing peer to peer merit-based endorsement. As this service offers professional skills validation, all data are verified in real time and kept on the blockchain. Thus, putting the data ownership at their hand.
So far, we have only covered a few main promises of this new technology. It is however necessary to point out some identified challenges that come with blockchain’s integration in the social media space.
Changing the “social media” mindset. People join social media platforms because of the connections offered by the networks. The concept of decentralization might be difficult to attract “common” online users.
Social media shares billions of information points daily and blockchain is not known for its speed and there are considerable concerns of the energy usage depending on the verification mechanisms. Integrating blockchain into social media platforms might seem to be economically inefficient at this point in time, due to the volume of information exchanged every day.
Though we can add some arguments about practicability and transaction fees of this technology, the primary idea of using blockchain to improve the current mainstream social media platforms is an attractive one. In fact, Facebook has started working on exploring blockchain on its platform. With user data being one of the biggest virtual markets, maybe it is the right time for us to rethink how we manage our data and contents.