Social media has become the fabric of the Internet. The number and importance of our interactions on social media are becoming too much for the handful of companies that run the industry. Social media giants like Facebook, Youtube, and WeChat have succeeded in connecting billions of people, but they are now finding it increasingly difficult to meet the demands of their users.
We would like to thank the team at Howdoo for their contributions to this article.
Decentralization offers a new approach to data privacy, advertising, content moderation, and international payments. But networking effects are strong, and users will only switch if there is a much better option. Here are the 5 direct benefits of decentralization for social media users.
We’ve created an infographic to better explain this idea to you:
1. Control over Personal Data
Large scale data breaches have become a part of online life. The recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal has shed even more light on what most of us already knew: our privacy on the Internet is disappearing.
What was particularly stinging about this scandal was that it wasn’t even a security breach? It was just a private company, Cambridge Analytica, using Facebook’s tools to do some research. They developed a survey, put it in front of a few hundred thousand users, then accessed those users data as well as their friends’ data. This eventually gave them access to info on 87 million Facebook users that hadn’t actually given Cambridge Analytica permission to see their data. The company then used this as a tool to help win Trump the US presidency.
On a centralized Internet, this type of behavior is to be expected. Facebook has full control over our data, which is worth $30 billion a year, and an obligation to shareholders to maximize profit from it. Even if the social media giants were benevolent, they’ve repeatedly shown that they can’t keep our data safe from attackers.
[bctt tweet=”Social media giants repeatedly shown that they can’t keep our data safe from attackers”]
There is, however, a solution. Blockchain technology is opening up possibilities in the digital world that we’ve assumed was impossible. The blockchain is a technology for building decentralized systems, where your data can be:
- Decentralized – No one company or organization is in control of your data.
- Encrypted – Nobody except you can read your data, even if the database is hacked. Unless, of course, you let them.
- Immutable – Nobody can change or alter your data.
This is the opposite of having a system with one company with access and control of everything (like Facebook).
Howdoo is an example of a platform that intends to give back control of the users’ data. Howdoo is building a decentralized platform powered by its own custom blockchain. It means that the users’ data is stored and encrypted on the blockchain and nobody (not even Howdoo) can access it without explicit permission from the user.
As a user you can choose:
- What data you share
- With which advertisers
- For how long
And it’s protected by default; you don’t need to trust anyone to protect it for you.
It seems like a farfetched idea for our privacy-deprived Internet, but this is possible right now with the blockchain. And it gets even better.
2. Actually Getting Paid for all that Data
So what if you’re not too concerned about privacy? What do you have to gain from having control over your online data?
[bctt tweet=”What do you have to gain from having control over your online data?”]
The answer is cash. When you have full, uncensored control of your personal data, you can go beyond just restricting it. You can start profiting from it.
With this newfound control on decentralized platforms like Howdoo, you’ll have the choice to either enjoy an ad-free environment or accept ads for payments. The more detailed information you expose to advertisers, the more valuable you become, and the more you’ll get paid. It’s a win-win for both users and advertisers. Users get paid, and brands can share their marketing budget directly with their potential customers.
So how much could you get paid? Taking Facebook as example and using their latest revenue numbers of $12 billion in Q1 2018 for one billion users, the possible payment can be up to $24 per year per person. But this number is much higher for US users, and that number is growing exponentially. Factor in all the other social media platforms and you could make a tidy profit from your social media life.
Blockchain-based social media platforms will let users take a piece of the pie, but there’s something that could deliver even more value back to the users.
3. Fairer Compensation for Content
The real value of social media platforms is in their content. Billions of users flock to social media to see photos, videos, articles, discussions, news, likes, shares, and so much more from their connections.
Currently, users generate all of this valuable content but don’t truly own any of it. Accounts can be closed with no warning or reason, and good luck getting Facebook to pay you for your likes or posts. Even on YouTube, only 3% of “YouTubers” make enough to crack the poverty line despite its $4 billion in revenue for 2017. Payout is as little as $0.30 per 1,000 views for smaller channels, but it jumps up to $10 per 1,000 views for the most popular channels. Despite this disparity, they are only making things more difficult for smaller channels, having recently restricted ad monetization to only channels with more than 1,000 subscribers.
[bctt tweet=”Online content is the goldmine of the 21st century, but the riches aren’t making their way to the regular users”]
Decentralization can help return all of this value back to those who created it. In this sense, it means giving back more to the content creators through the use of rewards and incentives through cryptocurrencies. Steemit is a content-driver social network that has already proved this concept can work in the real world. Using a clever system of economic incentives, users are rewarded for great content (judged by other users) and also rewarded for upvoting good content and helpful comments. One users earned $12,000 in cryptocurrency in one month just for posting articles that readers liked. Another earned $230 in a week just for commenting on other articles.
Howdoo takes this a step further and proposes an incentive scheme to deliver 60-75% of its advertising revenue right back to those that actually produce the content. The whole process is transparent and programmable in the form of Ethereum smart contracts, so you don’t have to worry about getting screwed over by one big player that holds all the cards.
4. Better Content Moderation
Just as the impact of social media is becoming critical to our lives, it’s becoming more dangerous too. Surveys have shown that 70 percent of people are worried about fake news used as a “weapon,” and that half of all young people have experience some form of cyberbullying.
At the moment, content moderation is highly centralized. Facebook receives millions of reports every week and has to manually review every single one according to their own controversial guidelines. Needless to say, they can’t do this job perfectly, and even Zuckerberg has admitted to this. Unacceptable content can slip through the cracks, which is exactly what happened when the popular YouTuber Logan Paul uploaded a video of a suicide victim. By the time fake or harmful content has been removed or reviewed, the damage has already been done.
[bctt tweet=”By the time fake or harmful content has been removed or reviewed, the damage has already been done”]
Community moderation is a much more decentralized way to do things. Rather than one all-powerful authority dictating what content can be shown, a platform could have built-in tools to let users moderate content themselves. Howdoo outlines how this will work on their decentralized social media platform:
“Contributions are deemed to be positive or negative by a combination of objective measures based on service quality and the subjective judgments of other network participants. This removes the need for a central entity to actively moderate both user-created content and advertisements, and instead delegates responsibility to actual users. A community of people can therefore decide for themselves whether content is offensive or inappropriate in the context of their members’ culture, interests, sense of humor, and opinions – and penalize antisocial behavior.”
This method of doing things makes much more sense. With these technological tools, a social media platform could return to doing its job – empowering users – rather than scrambling to edit, censor, and judge the content that it’s users post.
5. Faster, Cheaper Payments
International money transfers are decades behind the rest of the Internet. Many banks charge around 7% in transaction fees for international transfers which take days to complete. Much of this cost just goes straight to the profit books of the big banks like Santander, who reportedly make 10% of their global profits from international money transfers.
There are new entrants like Transferwise that have come into the market offering lower cost transactions, but the true star of the last 10 years has been Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Crypto payments can cost just cents to send any amount of money you like, almost instantly. There is demand for low-cost peer-to-peer payments. Venmo currently processes $8 billion in quarterly peer-to-peer payments on its banking-based platform, but cryptocurrency can take this to a whole new level.
Cryptocurrency payments can be built right into a social media platform. Howdoo intends to use blockchain technology make the process of sending money to anyone as easy as sending a message, and basically for free. Low transaction costs make micropayments possible. These can be the basis for an effective incentive system, rewarding useful posts, comments, likes, and shares with small payments similar to Steemit.
[bctt tweet=”International money transfers are decades behind the rest of the Internet”]
Perhaps more importantly is that cryptocurrencies work independent from the traditional banking system. Social media users in developed nations will surely enjoy the faster and cheaper built-in social media payments. But the world’s 2 billion people without access to banking and the 160 million small business without a bank account will instantly have access to a global economic system. This will open up these businesses and allow communities to grow.
Worldwide access to efficient social media payments will open up new opportunities for the unbanked, new markets for businesses, community resource pooling, and peer-to-peer financial services.
Social media users will use whatever platforms meet their needs (and their friends!) best. As the explosive growth of users, content, and importance continues, the current centralized solutions we have now are proving that they just aren’t up to the task.
Decentralization using blockchain technology can give us a level of data control, financial compensation, content moderation, and payment infrastructure that we struggle to even imagine now. Facebook used superior ideas and technology to devour MySpace and Friendster, so is it now Facebook’s turn to get eaten?