Social media is an integral part of our lives today. An average social media user spends two and a half hours every day using social media platforms in 2022. Moreover, there are over 4.6 billion social media users worldwide today. Social media has completely changed the way we interact, communicate, and get to know what’s happening around us.
Although the future of social media is bright and more emerging, its centralized nature is getting more attention from users. Today, just a handful of tech giants are controlling the major social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, etc. This centralized control has resulted in many issues, such as censorship, privacy concerns, data breaches, server outages, and similar others. For example, social media is highly regulated in China with strict government-controlled censorship.
Considering the increasing frustration of users around social media, the new concept of decentralized social media is emerging, which will leverage blockchain technology to decentralize social media and give control back to the users. In fact, there are already dozens of such platforms emerging and grabbing millions of users, such as Mastodon, Minds, LBRY, Desofy, and many more. So, let’s explore more about decentralized social media, including its pros and cons, and also discuss how it is going to challenge the existing centralized social media platforms.
Decentralized Social Media – A Quick Overview
The word “decentralization” has grabbed a lot of attention in recent years with the popularity of cryptocurrency and blockchain. Decentralization technology helps to set up a secure, fair, and transparent network. So, decentralized social media is a platform powered by distributed ledger technologies (DLT) with no centralized control.
Basically, decentralized social media is a blockchain-based, open-source social media that runs on independent servers or nodes. This means there is no centralized server where all data resides. The main foundation of decentralized social media is blockchain technology that distributes the data over hundreds of independent nodes within the network instead of one central server. This eradicates censorship and gives users more control and freedom.
How Decentralized Social Media Works
In centralized social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, all the user information, posts, messages, and platform code are stored in a centralized location. This centralized server system also means there is a single point of failure. For example, Facebook went offline for many hours in 2019, while Twitter also experienced servers outage in 2022. This is where the working principle of decentralized social media defers.
A decentralized social media is deployed on the blockchain with a peer-to-peer network framework that involves thousands of independent nodes from across the globe. Basically, it involves a decentralized storage system such as the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), in which a distributed file storage protocol enables all the connected nodes/computers to store and serve files while being a part of the large peer-to-peer network. In simple words, a decentralized social network performs everything like a centralized server but does not involve any centralized storage system. So, even if some nodes fail in the network, the remaining nodes will keep the platform running. This removes the chances of outages.
The decentralized storage system also means no one will be able to control or sell user data. Moreover, it also removes the stream of advertisements and allows content creators to use new ways of monetizing. Users can use native tokens of the platform to access advanced features, tip content creators, make in-app purchases, and more.
Pros of Decentralized Social Media over Centralized Social Media
Some of the key benefits of decentralized social media over centralized social media are as follows:
The top most benefit of decentralized social media is that it eradicates censorship. There is no central authority or middleman that will censor and control what users will see. All users have full control of their content and data.
Decentralized social media is not run by a single entity, rather relies on a massive peer-to-peer network. So, such platforms don’t need ad revenue to sustain. Moreover, these platforms will not force users to watch those contents or ads that can give platforms more revenue. So, decentralized social media is free from ads and give the real social media experience users need.
Direct and Transparent Monetization
Since decentralized social media does not show ads, so it cannot pay content creators the way centralized social media does. But it even provides a more direct and transparent monetization option. Decentralized social media platforms have specific native tokens that users can use to tip content creators.
For example, if a content is watched by 10,000 users and at least 10% of them have used a native token to send micro-donation to the creator, worth like $0.1, then the creator has made $100 from just a single post. Moreover, creators can turn their posts into NFTs and generate more revenue. In addition, it also removes other monetization requirements, like x number of subscribers, x watch hours, x length of videos, etc. All it demands is creating an account and starting monetization from the first day.
Decentralized social media minimizes the chances of downtime or outages due to its peer-to-peer model. So, even if a few nodes malfunction or get out of the network, still the remaining stream of nodes can keep the platform running. This makes decentralized social media more resistant to downtime/outages.
Decentralized social media has no central storage system, so it is less vulnerable to cyberattacks, such as DDoS attacks. The open-source and large nodes network keep the platform more secure. In addition, users also get a higher level of privacy and anonymity, which is not possible in existing social media platforms.
Cons of Decentralized Social Media over Centralized Social Media
Although decentralized social media seems the best alternative to centralized social media, it does have some cons worth mentioning, as follows:
Decentralized social media gives power back to the users, making them freely post whatever they want. Unfortunately, it also gives an opportunity to malicious users to use it to post malicious/disturbing content. Since there is no moderator, such content remains on the platform for a long period of time. This is addressed rightly in centralized platforms where such content and users are removed from the platform right away.
Unattractive User Interface
Most of the decentralized social media platforms are following a similar user interface like the existing centralized ones. So, there are no such unique aspects, plus the interface also is not user-friendly in some cases. Alternatively, centralized social media platforms provide attractive user interfaces and keep doing frequent changes to enhance user experience.
Challenging Long Term Retention
In most cases, social media users join decentralized social media platforms to explore what it offers and then often shift back to centralized social media platforms. It is because they miss interacting with their friends, seeing posts of their celebrities, and all the glamor that centralized social media has to offer. So, until decentralized social media becomes more and more popular, the long term retention rate will be a challenge.
Decentralized Social Media vs. Centralized Social Media – What’s the Future
The above pros and cons of decentralized social media over centralized social media platforms give a mixed opinion. On one side, decentralized social media seems promising due to its censorship-resistant, user-controlled, and freedom aspects. On the other hand, its negative use by malicious users and unappealing interface/features doubts its competitive capabilities against the existing platforms.
So, it is very likely that the existing centralized social media platforms will dominate the market in the next few years, while the decentralized platforms will keep increasing their user base gradually. The dominance of decentralized social media can trigger if celebrities or influences move to those platforms and bring their following as well. Alternatively, if influences can achieve more monetization benefits in decentralized social media through native tokens, NFTs, and other ways, then it can increase the attention of decentralized social media. Besides that, the stability and upward movement of cryptocurrencies can also have an influence.
To sum up, decentralized social media is a need of the time considering the growing concerns of censorship and privacy. However, the dominance of decentralized social media is still years ahead. So, sit tight and watch how the social media market reacts to the emergence of decentralized social media in the upcoming years.