Social Media on the Decentralized Web
In recent days, many Twitter users have sought alternative platforms, like the decentralized social media network Mastodon, in the face of controversial layoffs, and leadership and product changes. According to Fortune, since Elon Musk took over Twitter on Oct. 27, Mastodon has drawn 489,003 new users, bringing total monthly active users to more than 1 million.
Users have many complaints about the governance of centralized social media issues, ranging from the security of private information to content moderation policies. Most platforms we know and use every day are part of a centralized ecosystem, which gives a small group of companies control over the personal and professional information of the masses.
Building a decentralized alternative to these giants requires time and effort: Mastodon, while new to many people, is based on work that stretches back over a decade. And while Mastodon is a worthy match for Twitter’s current feature-set, it’s not enough for these tools to simply match the social media giants. New entrants will need to offer different and unique benefits, like enhanced privacy, security, and stability, that compel users to switch, and embrace new platforms and solutions.
At Filecoin Foundation, we see the technologies in the Filecoin ecosystem offering rock-steady stepping stones to this better future. Libp2p lets individual users find and talk to each other, without needing central servers. IPFS gives new services a way to find data, wherever it is stored — freeing them from dependence on one social media company over another and letting users move from one service to another. The Filecoin network itself, with incentivized storage, not only provides a provably stable basis for hosting content, but also shines a light on the kind of incentive systems that will enable independent social media to sustain and provide for itself for the long run, without relying on the largesse of the current tech giants.
Here are some organizations leveraging these protocols and others to develop social media tools and networks:
The Spritely Networked Communities Institute was established to “put people in control of their own identity and build the technology that would enable a shift to collaborative and intentional security models prioritizing active consent.” Founded by Randy Farmer and Christine Lemmer-Webber, two pioneers in the space of open protocols for social software, Spritely is working on free, open-source software for developers to create a system devoid of gatekeepers and centralized data collection.
Spritely’s fundamental research will provide four important benefits to future decentralized social media. It will:
- Furnish a secure object capability network suite, which enables object-to-object communication.
- Enable a peer-to-peer interface for social software instead of client-to-server, with no gatekeepers required, which will be able to interconnect with existing peer-to-peer technologies such as libp2p and Tor Onion Services.
- Support granular and revocable trust that is persona-specific, with local human-meaningful mapping to decentralized identifiers, allowing discoverable names across networks, and credential management.
- Offer a suite of distributed debugging tools that allow for time-traveling to the state of the system when the error occurred.
Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW) recently announced an award to Spritely to further efforts to give people autonomy over identity and their relationships online.
User-generated content boomed during the Web 2.0 era. Audius is a music streaming platform based on modern decentralized technologies, which puts creators directly in contact with listeners and in control of their own products.
In today’s world, centralized music platforms offer little to no transparency on pay, publishing rights, licensing, and other serious issues. We’ve seen the backlash that the most popular platforms today have faced over their payment structure — or lack thereof. The Audius API lets streamers and listeners determine the payment structure and redefines the concept of monetization on social platforms: Artists earn compensation each time they post content, and listeners earn by completing tasks such as streaming streaks and offering feedback. Plus, a recent integration with TikTok means that Audius creators can provide their music to TikTokers looking for a background track for their videos.
From Audius’ beginnings in 2018, it has used IPFS as a decentralized system for storage without up-front payment or lock-ins. Today, Audius is both a protocol and a platform built on top of several blockchain and community-run nodes. Audius is open source, open data and access, and open ownership.
Freenet 2 is modernizing the concepts originally developed by Freenet, software that empowers anonymous chatting, file sharing, browsing, and website publishing, pages known as “freesites.” Freenet users contribute a portion of their hard drive and storage bandwidth, creating a decentralized ecosystem that is far less susceptible to malware and other malicious cyberattacks.
Last year, Filecoin Foundation awarded a developer grant to Freenet to help provide support for libp2p into Freenet 2, the project’s new foundation for decentralized, sealable social networking.
And a few more:
- Gummys — A community-powered streaming platform allowing users to generate income by creating, minting, and trading tokenized media content, watching videos, and more. Learn more about Gummys work building on the Filecoin network.
- Quest Chains — A gamified learning onboarding platform which rewards users through questing. Quest makers create quest chains, while questers would then complete the quests and get rewarded with NFTs, which would showcase their newly acquired skills in profiles. Learn more about Quest Chains building on the Filecoin network.
- Volaverse — Creating a community-driven metaverse around the globe and building a learning, teaching, and socializing platform creating a gamified and immersive experience for users. Learn more about Volaverse building on the Filecoin network.
These are just a few of the many companies and non-profits creating an alternative to centralized internet platforms. Everything we do today happens online, and the data from almost every interaction we have is stored on a server somewhere. A decentralized web enables users to take back control of their information and know exactly what is happening to our most sensitive information.
Learn more about FF and FFDW Grants
The Filecoin Dev Grants program helps advance projects and aims to award additional grants to boost development in the ecosystem. Check out other grant recipients and learn how you can apply for open grants and Microgrants.
Find out more about FFDW’s grants program.