December 12, 2022

Everything You Need to Know about Decentralized Social Media

After NFT and Metaverse, decentralized social media is an emerging trend and gaining more popularity aggressively. Find out more about it in this blog.

With over 4.5 billion social media users worldwide, there is no denying of social media's significant role in our lives. Today chatting with friends, checking the news, sharing life updates, and all such activities are carried out through social media. It's true that life without social media does not seem possible now, but a few major issues are buzzing a lot around the current social media model. The first and major one is the centralized control of major platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. In addition, censorship, privacy violations, de-platforming, server outages, and many more are further concerning a lot today.

For every problem there is a solution and here it comes in the shape of decentralized social media. It is believed that decentralized social media can fix most of the challenges users face with the current centrally controlled social media platforms. So, what decentralized social media is all about, its working principle, and its advantages are all going to be the discussion points of this blog. So, let's jump right to it!

What is Decentralized Social Media?

In simple words, decentralized social media is a platform built on distributed independently run servers that are controlled by several entities. To help better understand it, let's compare it with the existing social media platforms. 

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and similar other platforms are all centralized, which means that they have their own centrally controlled server that processes and stores all the data. This central control means that server outages or cyberattacks will have a direct impact on the operations and accessibility of those platforms. On the other hand, decentralized social media runs through multiple distributed servers mostly utilizing blockchain technology in which the data is not stored in a single entity. This way, the data spread out on hundreds of different independent nodes across the network, making it resistant to cyberattacks and downtimes. 

How does Decentralized Social Media Work?

One thing we have learned so far is that decentralized social media platforms operate on a peer-to-peer network that comprises hundreds of nodes worldwide. So even if a few nodes fail, the network is still able to run without any interruption. But the question is how decentralized social media stores and processes data.

Decentralized social media uses InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), which is a distributed file storage system that empowers all the computers linked to the giant peer-to-peer network to store and serve files. These individual computers that are connected to IPFS provide storage bandwidth to store the data uploaded to the network. For example, a website utilizes the IPFS system to store content. So, the data is stored across all the connected networks instead of a central server. This way, if only one of the nodes is online that has stored a specific page, then the users can still access that page easily by visiting the website. In short, IPFS works the same as a centralized server, but it is not centralized.

The decentralized network of nodes also makes it really impossible to project where a particular data is stored in which node on IPFS. Therefore, this eradicates the chances of hacks and censorship.

Another prominent working difference between centralized and decentralized social media is in "social graphs''. Both centralized and decentralized social media platforms use a social graph, which is a social network model that maps all the users on the platform and how they are linked. This lets users interact with one another in the front-end platform. In the case of centralized social media platforms, the social graphs of users are owned by the companies and often shared with third parties. However, the social graph in decentralized social media is decentralized and distributed across multiple nodes. Besides that, the social graphs are open to all, but users have complete ownership and sole control of the data. This way, only users can decide if they intend to share the data with others.

Decentralized social media platforms are also known as decentralized applications (dApps), as they let anyone run a node, curate a feed, get back-end access, and have all the freedom. Moreover, they power their own monetization using native tokens without requiring advertisement revenue. So, users can buy those tokens to do in-app purchases, gain access to advanced features, tip creators, and do a lot more.

Decentralized vs Centralized Social Media – Advantages of Decentralized Social Media 

Just like metaverse and NFTs, there is a lot of debate on decentralized vs centralized social media. So, let's dive more into it and list out some of the key advantages of decentralized social media compared to centralized social media:

1. More User Control

Centralized social media provides minimal control to the users, as such platforms can take out any content they want, block/suspend users, and do whatever they like. Decentralized social media gives control back to the users and makes them own their content. There is no central authority, so users find more freedom and privacy. 

2. No Outages or Downtimes

Centralized social media platforms are run through central servers with a central database to store data. This means that the platform can face downtimes if the servers malfunction. For example, Facebook faced the worst outage in 2019 which lasted for hours. Since decentralized social networks operate on a peer-to-peer network that comprises hundreds of nodes worldwide, the chances of downtimes or outages almost reduce to zero.

3. No Censorship

Centralized social media platforms censor the content a lot. North Korea and China are among the top countries that do the most censoring of content. Decentralized social media has no central authority, so the concept of censorship fades away. Users are given full ownership and control of their content, thereby making them engage with their followers more openly.

4. Direct Monetization

The monetization concept in centralized social media is not transparent. Content creators never know how much a platform is earning from their content and how much they are getting paid. Moreover, creators have to fulfill other criteria to start getting their content monetized, such as minimum subscribers, minimum video length, etc. Decentralized social media provides creators a direct chance to monetize their content from the very first day. These platforms offer native tokens, NFTs, and other options through which content creators can monetize and get full rewards for themselves. 

5. Security

There are many security concerns associated with centralized social media. For instance, they can get hit with DDoS attacks, data breaches, outages, etc. For example, Twitter recently faced one of the worst data breaches in which over 5.4 million Twitter users' data got stolen. Decentralized social media platforms run through different independent servers or nodes and are mostly open-source, thereby they are more resistant to the threats faced in a centralized environment. Moreover, such platforms also empower users to have an additional layer of privacy and anonymity.

Existing Decentralized Social Media Platforms

Decentralized social media is not just a fancy concept, it is already in full swing. One emerging name here is DeSo, a decentralized social blockchain that can power storage-heavy social media platforms, eventually helping developers build decentralized social media apps. For instance, Desofy is the first decentralized social media mobile app built on the DeSo blockchain. It provides a Twitter-similar experience, giving users freedom and privacy and also letting them earn directly from their posts as NFTs. 

Below is a quick glimpse of some of the other emerging decentralized social platforms:

  • Lens Protocol: It is a blockchain-based and open-source decentralized social graph that lets users have ownership of their content, how they use it, how they monetize it, etc. It allows any blockchain-based social platform or dApp to plug into it.
  • Mastodon: It is an open-source decentralized social network similar to Twitter but it is run through independently operated, interconnected servers. It is free from ads and lets users post content as pictures, videos, audio, texts, animated avatars, etc.
  • Farcaster: It is a completely decentralized social network that empowers users to have the freedom to take their social identities over different applications. It provides an experience similar to Twitter or Reddit, but with more freedom and control. 

There are many other decentralized social media platforms other than the above ones. In short, the decentralized social experience is already in use and becoming more popular gradually.

Wrapping Up

When the social media we use today became mainstream, it was an attractive and new way of communicating and interacting with the world. Over the years, the cons of centralized social media have become more and more prominent and users are becoming more willing to opt for other more secure platforms. That's why we can see so much buzz around decentralized social media.

There is no doubt in saying that decentralized social media is definitely going to get more attention in the next few years. So, it's going to be a lot interesting to see how these centralized tech giants are going to respond to the growing decentralized social buzz and whether decentralized social media is actually going to surpass the current traditional social media ecosystem.

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