People are tired of unelected social media corporation leaders restricting their freedoms
The world is constantly changing, two decades ago you can’t imagine calling a friend halfway around the world in a second or less. Now, it has become the standard. People not only send messages across the world but they also do video calls with each other. Seeing each other almost in real-time every day.
And around two decades ago one of the largest social media companies have just been founded — Facebook. The term social media is still new back then as not everyone has a stable internet connection. When the internet starts to become widely available everywhere Facebook took the internet by storm. Almost everyone has a Facebook account. But it was just the beginning.
Everything has become so instantaneous that the slightest of downtimes can be frustrating to a lot of us. Though people may not realize that their comfortability comes with a price. Have you ever heard of the term, “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product”?
We Are Becoming Cyborgs
More people are becoming attached to their digital devices, it’s like we’re glued to them. But you can’t blame them, you need devices for almost all the productive things you need to do. Want to write an email? Open your laptop. Want to send money? Open your smartphone.
We are so attached to our devices that it has become our only means of communication. People don’t send letters anymore. This reliance on free-to-use services causes a problem. Because many of our friends and family started to use apps owned by big tech corporations there is almost no escaping it other than losing contact.
Humans are social creatures, we cannot exist without each other. The tech giants know this and have made multiple features to increase the time we spend on their platforms. You cannot escape your innate need to socialize. The longer we stay on our phones at our leisure the more we give away to these corporations.
The Concerns Regarding Centralized Social Tech
If you pay close attention to the top social media apps people use a big percentage of them belong to U.S companies. Most social media apps that we use originated in the United States. U.S firms own the top 5 social media sites, heck Facebook alone owns four. We have no idea how much power we are giving these unelected leaders.
1. Lack of trust
For example, in a survey by Pew Research Center about a third of U.S adults get their news from Facebook. About 100 million people are catered to the will of Facebook and their cronies, and this is just from Facebook alone. Facebook along with Twitter and Reddit has been the most popular social media for news seekers. Although most of them do not trust them as sources at all.
The world is having mixed feelings about social media, partly because of the political interventions some of them have done in recent years. Twitter removed an ex-president of the United States. Albeit, the leadership of Twitter did claim it was the right choice after seeing the riots at capitol hill. Some claim that the action is akin to pouring more gasoline into the fire.
The original goal of creating social media is to make communication easier. Who would’ve thought that their speech would be regulated in the digital world? More countries are fed up with social media and have made interventions to curb its influence. The distrust society has on social media has begun to spread.
2. Lack of data sovereignty
Users should have the right to their data, but sadly in free-to-use platforms, you cannot claim that. You might feel private and secure but they use your data to market personalized advertisements. Some people might be okay with personalized ads, others not so much.
The important thing is being able to opt out of anything we do not want to participate in, but that is not possible. Because revenues will decline if personalized ads are removed. Monetary concerns overweight people are given the choice to opt-out. Something has to fund this entire project.
And after all this, you should also understand that centralized platforms cannot guarantee your data is safe from hackers. Facebook alone has 5 data breaches with the totaling amount of 800+ million user data being compromised. Even the government can’t keep your data safe, you are the sole guardian of your own data.
Now, this isn’t a call to leave social media, but it is to highlight the fallacy we believe in privacy. We are not completely private, and this social media problem has not been solved.
3. Monopoly of interest
Do you know why large social media has little to no competition in their respective genres? Because it’s hard to compete with them. The social media monopoly doesn’t have any viable solutions because there is no reason for people to move to new platforms.
Of course, the rise of TikTok and other new entertainment services are luring more and more users but it would all lead to the same conclusion, a centralized service feeding you personalized feeds and ads. It’s just the same song sung on a different tune.
The capital behind centralized social media is huge, and if competitors do not have anything else to offer other than privacy it does not seem like people would care that much.
Creating a Decentralized Solution
Decentralization is one of the solutions to a liberal social platform. Because to regain the trust of society, social platforms must persuade their users that they are doing it for them and not for the money. People no longer have to fear executives who can silence them.
1. Complete data sovereignty
Decentralization also comes with some benefits. For starters, the benefits of having your data safe are one of the multiple advantages decentralization brings. You wouldn’t need to worry about hackers hijacking your data because you would still have multiple copies of it on every running node.
Depending on the type of data sovereignty you are looking to achieve, you can either write your data on a federated database or a blockchain. But the benefits of both types of data store architectures are different. In a blockchain ecosystem, you can’t opt-out of hosting certain types of data that you might not agree with, on the other hand, federated databases give you more freedom in this case.
A federated ecosystem allows users to host specific types of data. It is easier to discern data. In a federated ecosystem, users can also choose to opt out of the main federation of servers and intentionally create a small private node without the interference of other actors.
A federated ecosystem like this already exists in the form of Mastodon. As an alternative for Twitter.
2. It isn’t hard to write decentralized apps anymore
Even with all this, the development process of decentralized apps doesn’t tend to differ that much compared to non-decentralized apps. Other than not being in the same infrastructure you still need to create CRUD (create, read, update, delete) functions to store data, and you either store it on a federated database or even on a blockchain.
Decentralized apps still need to sync between their data between nodes and even though it sounds complicated modern frameworks enable abstraction layers on top of an already existing solution. Substrate is a good example. Almost anyone can write a blockchain app.
3. No single point of failure
This point is obvious, with multiple nodes the possibility of an app outage is nearly impossible. Events like Amazon Web Services outage in 2017 will no longer affect your app downtime. Though with decentralization it has the caveat of being slow to retrieve data because it needs to retrieve it from multiple instances.
Also because the infrastructure is spread across a multitude of servers, we would not need to worry about large numbers of users accessing the app at the same time, because the servers will divide the load will indefinitely.
But Why Haven’t Any Decentralized Solutions Blown Up Yet?
Like I said in the previous paragraphs, the reason why decentralized apps are not huge is because of the convenience it lacks. People already know how to use Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’m sure most of you haven’t heard of sites like Sola or Mastodon.
Because there is no reason for people to be moving because some tech “executive” is censoring their freedom of speech. As long as they can still connect with friends freely (as in with no direct cost monetary wise) why would they complain?
We need to realize that the user base is also a key factor keeping these platforms afloat. Facebook alone has around 2.85 billion users today, and they are still growing. This is why people keep using apps that they don’t trust. Removing our friends and family is very difficult. Humans are social creatures after all.
The idea of decentralized social platforms is not new and has been going on for a while. But the story is akin to David versus Goliath. With Goliath being the big tech company.
What to do instead:
What can we do instead? We have to make migrating to decentralized apps easier, and that solution is what is missing nowadays. There also has to be a killer feature to attract new users from the world of the mainstream.
A good example of this would be Myriad. The concept behind Myriad is interesting because it aggregates posts from other social media on their federated platform. Myriad also utilizes blockchain to make payments to content creators within its platform. Do you know what’s the killer part? Myriad can pay you without you needing to make an account, Myriad already creates an escrow account for you according to your social media profile on other platforms.
Let’s say you subscribe to a Youtube account, and you want to give tips to your favorite Youtuber on Myriad. You only need to search their public escrow wallet address on Myriad and send them the tip. Albeit, if your favorite Youtuber wants to withdraw the tip they have to create a Myriad account and verify it.
This should be the standard that every decentralized social media app has to offer. The standard of convenience, privacy, and utility. If every decentralized app provides features like these and is not too privacy-focused on their marketing I believe that we could finally win the battle against Goliath.
The potential for decentralized apps is enormous. In the looming distrust of our current social and political system, everyone is trying to find a safe place for them to discuss difficult ideas. We cannot silence the voices who do not fit the narrative, the truth must come first. I’ll end this with my favorite quote from Lex Fridman
“To carelessly labeling ideas as misinformation and dismissing them because of that will eventually destRoy our ability to discover truth and without truth we don’t have a fighting chance against the great filter before us.”