Why Decentralized Social Media is the Next Big Thing
TikTok, BeReal, Discord… These are some of the biggest names dominating the social media industry these past couple of years. Take BeReal, for example; the number of users exploded overnight and the younger generation latched onto the platform, posting unedited, unfiltered lives of themselves compared to the heavily photoshopped content of the familiar Instagram and Facebook. As the Digital Age advances, more and more users want to gain their own digital agency and rights. It’s not news that social media platforms have completely changed the way we communicate and absorb information. But at the same time, a lot of misinformation, lack of content moderation, and malicious activity have also flooded users’ experiences on social platforms. It’s no wonder decentralized social media is the next big, gigantic thing.
What is decentralization?
Decentralization isn’t new. At least, the concept isn’t. It actually dates all the way back to 1820’s. According to Oxford Languages, decentralization is the transfer of control of an activity or an organization to singular entities rather than one single one. It’s a multifaceted concept directed mainly at trying to change big organizations. The concept can be applied to best management practices, government affairs, public administrations, the economy, technology, and most recently, finance. The term ‘DeFi,’ short for decentralized finance, is an emerging financial technology that’s built on blockchain to challenge traditional centralized banking institutions. The first and foremost example of decentralized finance is the emerging industry of cryptocurrency. Without a centralized institution to regulate cryptocurrency as a whole, each and every transaction across the world is available for everyone to see and track. In easier words, decentralization is simply taking the power and control away from a singular entity or institution, and relocating that power and control to everyone else. A reassignment of authority, if you may.
What is decentralized social media?
Decentralized social media platforms are platforms built on blockchain that protect users’ data and operate fully on independent servers rather than a centralized server run by an entity or business. Aside from promoting free speech, safeguarding user data, and fostering transparency amongst users, the biggest difference is how the platform makes money. Instagram, for example, has control of every kind of data that’s being put on the platform, and shares user data with third parties from everything like browsing history to users’ locations. sells user data as their business model. A decentralized network gives users control of their own data and transactions, promoting data security and jurisdiction. Users make their own decisions on operations and networking.
What’s so different about regular social sites and decentralized social media platforms, you might ask? Our minds immediately go to Facebook and Twitter when it comes to regular social media. Big Tech controls all of the data and has oversight of everyone and everything. Have you ever seen an advertisement about a specific brand of toothpaste that only your parents use pop up on your Facebook right after you’ve visited them? Or an ad about a clothing brand you’ve never worn but your friend was talking to you about at lunch? This phenomenon has become more and more common, as users of any digital device have reported experiencing their devices ‘listening in on them.’ A decentralized network has no central control over data, and all data belongs to users. The other difference would be that centralized platforms can only allow message-sending within their own platforms. For example, Twitter messages can only be sent through Twitter. Decentralized platforms allow cross-messaging.
Why should we use them?
We can all agree on the impact and influence social sites have on our daily lives. Sometimes that impact leads to political changes, social uprisings, and much more that goes beyond the tiny screen. The goal to decentralize anything, from finance to social media, has always been about gaining agency over your own data. Depending on what users’ priorities are, regular social media users are also safe to use decentralized social media platforms if they are aware and understanding of the differences. Here are some goals that a decentralized network might want to have.
- User Control. Blockchain technology has gradually but surely allowed users to control their own data. That includes censorship resistance, ownership of their own content and data, and having a final say in what they want to post and what can and cannot be taken down. This is one of the main concepts that drives blockchain technology and why the world is embracing Web3.0 sites.
- Free Speech. Free speech and social media have always been hand in hand in terms of mass controversy and/or agreement. The infamous Trump ban on Twitter is one example of what a centralized social platform could do. On the other hand, a decentralized network gives everyone on it free speech and ownership of everything they want to say, crossing out the ‘middle-man’ that administers data and content on the site.
- Increased Security. A decentralized network runs on hundreds or thousands of nodes, or servers, to function. In return, server malfunction is less likely to happen with an extra layer of security. That extra layer also comes with another layer of anonymity and privacy that only increases a user’s data security.
Future of decentralized social media platforms
The internet moves fast. Technology is even faster. After just a couple of decades, Web2.0-based sites have already reached their limit, especially with users. Centralization and changing algorithms mean that creators, brands, and entities on these social sites have a finite control over their own content and data. The future of decentralized social media platforms gives users control, which is what was vastly missing from all of the internet since it was invented. The content that the user creates on every single platform will be saved. Imagine if you’ve built a fantastic and scalable brand identity on TikTok, and one day the app crashes and you lose everything. On a decentralized platform, your identity and content is tied to your own server and network, and not relying on a centralized platform like TikTok, which ultimately still owns all of your content and data. The decentralized social platforms will essentially change what we know about mainstream media and give us a new foundation of the ecosystem.
Most popular decentralized sites
- Mastodon. It is known as the world’s largest open-source, free, and decentralized network. Users see it as an alternative to Twitter, which has a long history of boasting free speech. There is no middle-man, and users have full agency over audio, video, content, and more.
- Lens Protocol. If you’re familiar with the Web3.0 ecosystem, this is also a popular site that allows users to build their own social network using Blockchain technology. Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are linked to each user’s profile that can be moved across several different platforms, giving users full control of their data and content.
- Diaspora. Diaspora is known as one of the oldest decentralized social media platforms. It has no central point of operation, and is used as a substitute to Facebook. It’s made up of several servers that contain the data of the user using it.
This might be hard to understand. The concept takes awhile to sink in and grasp, but once the idea settles in, a silent revolution takes place. The internet is still quite young, and it is something that we have barely touched the tip of the iceberg. With more and more people wanting to gain control and ownership over their data and personal information, Web3.0 social media sites are here to stay.
*The opinions reflected in this article are the sole opinions of the author and do not reflect any official positions or claims by Acer Inc.
About Janice Lin: Janice is a contributing writer for Acer with a background in marketing and copywriting. She's passionate about literature, tech, blockchain, and creative trends. She has worked with several clients to grow and position their brands internationally.