Blockchain & Crypto

Your data: the future of social media

A look into two core projects developing the “new-gen” social media and content platforms.

Although it may not seem plausible now, the “social media” we are used to today will be completely different in under a decade.
Source: Unsplash

Social media dominates the surface of the internet. To the surprise of many under the age of forty, Facebook still has over 2.8 billion monthly active users. TikTok and Instagram are toe to toe in delivering content faster, with more excitement and more relevance. Shopping is happening as influenced by and on social media platforms, as is education, communication, and making money.

As the industry gains unprecedented momentum and open opportunities, social media becomes less about communication and exploration, more about purpose: a profitable and/or purchasable end-goal.

E-commerce integrates more tangibly into every scroll of every feed, targeted advertising hits the mark suspiciously too well.

Because of this, social media companies are alleging increased focus on privacy, and a website cannot be opened without consenting to all cookies or just the ‘necessary’ ones. But regulation does not mean user satisfaction, as is witnessed across platforms like Reddit, where moderators are often unmoderated tyrants, favoring permanent bans, and Twitter, where government involvement was unsurprising, but not actively alarming enough to the majority of internet users.

Where is social media going, with much to sell, many to be sold to, and a great deal of convolution surrounding data privacy?

Where are we scrolling for?

Oversaturation of existing social media platforms results in a lack of desire to use them. This way, room is made for new-gen platforms to emerge and cater to the unsatisfied wishes of internet users.

Here came Clubhouse, the voice-based social networking app, and OnlyFans, a subscription-based content platform. Users seemed to be more satisfied with individual-run businesses, versus targeted ads by big companies. Largely due to the nature of “blowing-up” on platforms like TikTok, where going viral is not directly linked to the number of followers or the ability to pay for promotional posts.

Conversely, the ability of anyone to become a business successfully, using just social media, has become a phenomenon across even those industries where a lack of accreditation is incompatible with conducting business at all.

In a time when you rarely meet a person without any online presence, information available about us online becomes more important than what we have going for us in the off-line world. Fueled further by the pandemic, by globalization, and by technological innovation, the natural currency we possess — our personal information, or data — gains value exponentially.

In the market for your data

Before you ever thought your data worth something, social media platforms were collecting and profiting from it. This is done in a variety of ways, including through user-generated content, tracking user behavior, and collecting information from third-party sources. This data includes demographic information, location data, browsing history, and other information that can be used to create detailed profiles of individual users.

Social media platforms then sell this data to companies and advertisers, who can use it to target their advertising more effectively. This data can be sold in the form of advertising inventory, which allows advertisers to show ads to specific user segments based on their interests and behaviors.

Some of the methods that social media platforms use to collect and sell user data include:

  • Tracking cookies: Social media platforms use tracking cookies to collect data on users’ browsing history and online behavior. This data can be used to create targeted advertising campaigns.
  • Third-party data brokers: Social media platforms purchase data from third-party data brokers, who collect and sell data on consumer behavior and demographics.
  • User-generated content: Social media platforms collect data on users’ interests and preferences based on the content they post and engage with on the platform.
  • Location data: Social media platforms collect data on users’ locations through GPS tracking and Wi-Fi signals. This data can be used to create location-based advertising campaigns.

Due to regulation, social media platforms typically have terms of service agreements that users agree to when they sign up for the platform. These agreements often allow the platform to collect and use user data for advertising purposes. Still, social media platforms have come under increased scrutiny in recent years over their data collection and privacy practices.

It is significantly less popular to sell your own data, and seems counterintuitive to want to monetise it. Yet, with cryptography, monetising your information may just be the solution to ensuring its privacy and security, as well as potential profit.

Adding value, adding freedom, adding safety

New projects are offering users blockchain-based information and content storages, as well as blockchain-based social media. But what does that mean?

It means that online activity is secure, global, and censorship-resistant.

In a world where social media has become the primary source for information, medium for communication, and a shoppable experience, the integrity crucial to maintaining this system is simply not present. User attention is diverted to advertisement, news gains and loses relevance at a speed which desensitizes, platforms are run by centralized entities, whose goal at the end of the day is obviously profit. This, coupled with spam, bots, and undemocratic moderation results in the necessity for something better. And it’s already in the works.

Nostr: A decentralized social network

Nostr is a “simple, open protocol that enables truly censorship-resistant and global value-for-value publishing on the web.” Already picked up by DeFi opinion leaders like Lyn Alden, Jack Dorsey, and Willy Woo, Nostr itself is not an app, but a protocol which enables censorship-resistant and globally decentralized publishing on the web.

The Nostr protocol utilizes Event objects in plain JSON format and public-key cryptography for keys and signing, making it easy to operate relays and create clients. This approach also allows for future protocol extensions.

Nostr’s resilience is due to its lack of reliance on a small number of trusted servers for data storage and movement. The protocol accounts for the potential disappearance of relays and enables users to connect and publish to any number of relays that they can modify as needed.

Since Nostr accounts rely on public-key cryptography, message authenticity can be easily verified to confirm the sender’s identity.

Nostr fixes the flaws prevalent to the current state of web publishing, which has deviated from its original intent as a platform for individual-created pages into a centralized oligopoly controlled by a select few of the world’s most powerful companies.

Corporations govern what we read, who we interact with, and which ideas gain traction in our culture, often without comprehending the full extent of their control. Their focus on “engagement” has had a detrimental impact on society.

Nostr restores the open and decentralized foundations of the web, allowing users to reclaim authority over the information they consume and how they consume it, and build more inclusive and constructive online communities.

Web3 Storage: The Data Layer

The other issue with using the web is content. Today, a majority of internet data is stored by large storage providers such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, which simplifies data storage for developers. However, these corporate giants create walled gardens of services that lock both developers and users into silos. As the market consolidates, a handful of providers are increasingly becoming the backbone of internet storage.

To tackle this issue, decentralized storage can be employed instead of relying on corporate platforms for storing data required by applications and services.

Created by Web3.Storage, Data Layer is a combination of 3 decentralized protocols which enable a fluid and flexible layer where data can be stored, read, processed, and sent by any entity on the web without worrying about data ownership. These layers are: IPFS, DID, and UCAN. The layer unlocks verifiability, openness, composability, and portability, which in turn limit vendor lock-in. Any actor on the web can have a DID, which means companies no longer control a user’s identity or data. The Data Layer enables serverless application structures and data flows due to content addressing and DIDs.

This means that your data, whether it is content, a group project, code, or a to-do list, isn’t governed by anyone other than you and those you permit to view or alter it. In essence, this means no more losing data over iCloud storage expiration, and no fear of data breaches.

Decentralized: Secured

Monetisation is no longer about fiscal value, especially pertaining to your personal data. Turning information into cryptography using blockchain protocols like Nostr and Web3.Storage allows you to have autonomous and unarguable control over your data. And once this information cannot algorithmically feed users purchasability, companies will be forced to cater to target audiences using definitive information on their product and elevated quality.

The biggest issue is laziness. Social media platforms are designed for “mindless scrolling”, enabling easy influence and supplementing true relaxation. Getting into Web 3 and blockchain innovations will likely never be pushed by mainstream media, because it can easily put buyable information sources out of business. As such, the only people who have access to these decentralized tools are ones who do the work and learn why and how to use them.

These articles aim to break down the often-complex and shrouded-in-yellow-press world of cryptography. Understanding the basics of cryptography and blockchain technologies is long overdue. By covering crypto-related news in an explanatory and non-sensational way, integrity and usefulness are maintained as the core principles of our journalistic efforts. And anyone who seeks this knowledge, deserves to find it.

Alice Pylypenko

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Alice is an editor, journalist, and essayist. Educated in psychology and dedicated to decentralization efforts, Alice continues to disclose the capabilities of Bitcoin to cultivate liberty, equality, and solidarity while shedding light on misinformation, power overreach, financial scandal, and the reasons behind them.