How Blockchain Could Improve Social Media Part 1

Overview of the problems with existing social media platforms.

 

One of the biggest developments of 2017 has been the introduction of blockchain technology to the collective consciousness. While cryptocurrencies and blockchains are still far from true mass adoption, most people in the Western countries have heard about blockchain, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The rise of Bitcoin has also led to introduction of more people to trading and investing. For example, during the Thanksgiving week of 2017, Coinbase has added over 300,000 users.

Since the inception of the Bitcoin network in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, blockchain technology has been mostly applied to industries related to cybersecurity and finance because the technology can provide users with fast and secure peer-to-peer transactions in a similar way they occur on the Bitcoin network.

Once Satoshi Nakamoto wrote the code for the Bitcoin network, he has made the code open source. Today, most code that users have on their computers, such as Microsoft and Apple operating systems, software packages like Microsoft Office and others, is private. This means that you can’t simply examine the code.  With Bitcoin and Bitcoin blockchain, the opposite is true: anyone can download the full code, examine it and use it fully or partly for whatever purpose they choose.

One of the ideas behind the Bitcoin network was full transparency of everything that occurs on the network, and this includes the software code being available to anyone. For this reason, many of the cryptocurrencies that emerged after the creation of Bitcoin, have used the ideas and sometimes parts of the code by Satoshi Nakamoto. It was easier to use what has already been working and done that create something new from scratch. This is one of the reasons why there have been so many cryptocurrencies that tried to improve on the ideas behind Bitcoin. A team of developers would use the code by Nakamoto and introduce some tweaks and changes without having to create everything from absolute scratch.

However, this does not mean that blockchain technology can only benefit the financial industry. The technology can do much more than just process financial transactions. At its core, blockchain technology about creating secure decentralized ledgers with immutable records, meaning that parties can only add entries to the ledger, but can’t change what is already in the ledger. The technology could benefit a wide variety of industries and software categories, including social media.

Currently, the world of social media consists of several large platforms where users spend most of their time. These platforms are Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

While it is true that the Internet offers incredible opportunities to everyone and anyone could create a new social media platform, search engine or an e-commerce website from anywhere in the world, here’s what has been happening on the Internet: a handful of companies have become absolute leaders in their categories. For example, according to Statista.com, Google.com gets over 60% of all search queries in the United States. Facebook by far is the largest social media platform. Amazon is the biggest e-commerce website, and so on.

Many of these platforms rely on advertising as one of the sources of revenue. For social media platforms such as Facebook advertising is the biggest source of advertising because Facebook is not an e-commerce platform like Amazon, which gets income from sellers, from Prime members, from AWS service users and so on. Google is also very different from Facebook because Google has multiple businesses and divisions with multiple income streams.

When a platforms gets most of its income from advertising, it essentially decides how to compensate different users, such as creators of content and users who passively consume content, for their participation in the activities on the platform. Often, creators of content get absolutely nothing. Not only that, but often their accomplishments go completely unnoticed and they don’t even get credit for their ideas or actions. For example, in 2017 Barack Obama wrote a tweet that has received the biggest number of likes in the history of the Twitter platform, but he did not receive any awards or even recognition for doing so. The tweet was Obama’s reaction to the attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, and consisted of a quotation from a book by Nelson Mandela. The tweet by President Obama has also become one of the most re-tweeted messages in the history of the platform. (source: https://www.cnn.com/2017/08/15/politics/obamas-charlottesville-tweet/index.html ).

After David Bowie died in 2016 after a long battle with cancer, a gif image by Helen Green has gone viral on multiple social networks, including Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram, yet most people sharing the image had no idea about who created it and Green did not get any payments or royalties from the users of her work.

This problem is very similar to the problem that the entertainment industry is facing in the digital age, when anyone can copy almost any copyrighted work with a few clicks or taps.

The blockchain technology can improve social media in several ways.