The Future of Interconnectivity
Jun 21, 2023
If you are not paying for the product, you are the product.
- Social Trilemma
Today let’s dive into the world of decentralized social media, commonly referred to as DeSoc. In an era when web3 technology is on the rise, DeSoc offers an equitable and empowering approach to digital interactions. Before understanding the decentralized social protocols, let’s have a quick glimpse at the Social Graph.
Understanding the Social Graph
At the heart of every social network lies the social graph—a complex structure that encapsulates relationships and interactions between users. It captures how you connect with friends, share content, or follow interests, turning your digital experience into a web of interconnected nodes.
From a social media perspective, a social graph is a digital map of a user's personal network. It involves the individual, the people they know, and how they all interact. Here's a closer look:
Visualization of Connections: On social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, a user's social graph represents not only direct connections (friends or followers) but also the interactions that a user has with different posts, groups, pages, and other elements of the platform.
Profiling and Personalization: Giant social media companies use data from users’ social graphs to create detailed profiles, which can be used to personalize the user experience. For example, based on the pages you like and the people you interact with, Facebook may suggest groups that might interest you, friends you might know, and ads that might appeal to you.
Algorithmic Feeds: The data from social graphs feeds into algorithms that determine what content you see in your newsfeed. These algorithms prioritize content from users and pages with whom you have the most interaction, based on the assumption that you're more interested in this content.
The current social graph model, hosted on centralized databases, places immense power in the hands of the few, often compromising privacy and user control over data. However, this model has a lot of privacy concerns which led to incidents like the Cambridge Analytica scandal that harvested the personal data of 87 million people for a political agenda.
So what’s a Decentralized Social Protocol?
Unlike traditional social media platforms, in decentralized social media, the data (like posts, likes, comments, and shares) is stored across multiple distributed nodes instead of a central server. This is often facilitated by blockchain technologies or distributed ledger technologies, which help ensure data integrity, privacy, and security. In a decentralized social media system, each user can control their data and their level of interaction.
They can host their server (or "node") and therefore have the autonomy to establish their rules and standards of interaction. This creates an environment that is potentially more resilient to censorship and provides better privacy control for users. It seeks to transform the social media space by allowing users to own their data, connect freely, and experience minimal censorship.
Imagine Facebook or Twitter, but where you hold the keys to your information castle. That's the promise of decentralized social networks.
Value Propositions of DeSoc
Undeniably, DeSoc offers enticing benefits that propel it into the limelight of the web3 era. Here are areas where DeSoc protocols can add value:
🔐 Censorship Resistance
A decentralized approach means no central authority holds power over content. Everyone can voice their opinion freely. As of now YouTube or Instagram has the complete power to take down your content if it violates their guidelines. This would empower more free-speech platforms where the minority views & the less mainstream perspectives are voiced.
🎨 Creator's Economy
Content creators can retain rights to their work and potentially earn rewards. In the current system, it’s the companies that have all the fun and own the creator's content. YouTube makes around $3B/week on Ads, however, only a small amount of that is shared with the creators. The mass adoption of DeSoc would flip the switch in power to the creators who can own and monetize their content.
🛡️ Self-sovereign Data
A survey by the Chartered Institute of Marketing showed that 57% of consumers don't trust brands to use their data responsibly. Another study by Cisco showed that 84% of consumers want more control over their personal data. We are moving toward an economy where you own your piece of the internet and systems that empower user-owned data.
💰 Neutrality & Sustainability
DeSoc networks strive for economic neutrality. They aim to reduce dependence on intrusive advertising and instead leverage new monetization strategies. The use of digital currencies strengthens resilience, rewards users, and cultivates a thriving creator economy. In essence, Web3 social media offers a more democratic, open, and user-focused alternative to traditional centralized networks.
Roadblocks for DeSoc
Despite its promises, the journey toward decentralized social media is not without challenges. Here are some of the showstoppers of decentralized social protocols.
⚖️ Storing data on-chain
Data storage on-chain is an expensive affair, which could potentially hinder the DeSoc network's scalability and usability. The last time we checked, it costs around $40K to store 1Mb of data on Ethereum. To store the amount of data that we are used to in web2 social platforms like Twitter, and Instagram would cost billions if not trillions of dollars which is not feasible.
🔒 Privacy preservation
In a global survey by SAS, 73% of respondents said they're more concerned about their online privacy than they were a few years ago, showing a growing demand for privacy-preserving solutions. In theory, DeSoc empowers a privacy-preserving ecosystem where user data remains confidential without access to any unauthorized individuals. However, current databases don’t enable the privacy preservation of user data at scale.
💾 Scalability in decentralized databases
Visa's centralized system can handle over 65,000 transaction messages per second, while Bitcoin (a decentralized system) can handle around 4.6 transactions per second. Decentralized systems often struggle to match the transaction speed (or data write speed) of centralized ones, which can process thousands or even millions of transactions per second.
Polybase Case Study
As we previously explored, decentralized social media networks (DeSoc) promise to revolutionize our digital interactions. However, they face significant challenges, particularly when it comes to scalability and data storage. That's where our ZK-powered database kicks in to empower these networks to operate at scale.
One such project is the Cards Protocol—an application built during a recent hackathon, utilizing Polybase to offer a unique, privacy-preserving solution to the age-old problem of contact information exchange.
Unraveling Cards Protocol
Ever found yourself in a situation where exchanging contact information at an event felt like a hassle? Or perhaps you wished for a method that ensured your privacy while also allowing you to retain ownership of your data? Cards Protocol aims to solve this problem.
The Problem 🚧
Traditional methods of exchanging contact information, like the vCard format or solutions such as Linktree, expose all your information publicly, posing serious privacy risks. These platforms often lack a system to handle sensitive data securely, leading to a compromise of user privacy.
Consider a typical hackathon event, where participants share LinkedIn profiles or other links to recruit teammates—an activity that seems mundane yet exposes a multitude of personal data to the public.
The Solution 💡
Cards Protocol introduces a novel approach to this problem. It uses a user-friendly, Linktree-like interface that allows users to create personalized pages. Here's how it works:
Data Storage: When a user saves their profile, the minimum required information for the contact list display is stored in Polybase. Simultaneously, all data, including that in the VCF format, is stored in IPFS, a peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol.
Privacy Measures: Any data set to be viewable only by "each other's contact list" is encrypted using Lit Protocol. This ensures that the data can only be decrypted if both parties have each other in their respective contact lists.
Composability: The existing VCF format makes it easy to import data onto a smartphone and share it via URL or NFC tags.
This allows for the controlled sharing of information. For instance, one could make their Telegram ID accessible only to those with whom they've exchanged contact information. Or, make their NFT icons public, while ensuring their actual photos are only viewable by select contacts.
Leveraging Polybase in Cards Protocol
They leveraged Polybase for storing temporary information about the user for display (Contact ids, User's keys, etc). Cards Protocol showcases the potential of leveraging a horizontally scalable decentralized database in creating disruptive solutions for Web3 applications. It perfectly embodies the principles of user data control and privacy preservation, central to DeSoc networks.
Github - https://github.com/yujiym/0xcard
Website - https://0x.cards/
The realm of DeSoc presents a fascinating sphere of possibilities. As we continue to innovate and challenge the status quo, we edge closer to a future where social networks are more secure, transparent, and user-centric which will be the next big wave in social media.
In conclusion, the decentralized social media landscape is thrilling to watch. Its potential to empower users, and reshape the digital world is immense. For Web3 developers and enthusiasts, the DeSoc journey is an exciting path to traverse, filled with challenges, and infinite possibilities.
If you are building a DeSoc protocol, we would love to chat with you to understand if Polybase can add value to your project. Feel free to book a call with us here.