What If Social Networks Were Run on the Blockchain by…Us?

Google owns YouTube. Facebook owns Facebook and Instagram. Who owns e-mail?

Trick question: the answer is, no one! It’s an open protocol anyone can use. So are RSS feeds used to distribute podcasts and the Domain Name System that tells your browser where to go when you type in google.com.

Many are concerned about the power that social media companies have, but what if social media were open and governed by the public at large? Blockchain technology may provide the means to do that, per a new article by top-flight venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz:

How do social networks decide which users to verify or ban? How do search engines decide how to rank websites? One minute social networks court media organizations and small businesses, the next minute they de-prioritize their content or change the revenue split. The power of these platforms has created widespread societal tensions, as seen in debates over fake news, state-sponsored bots, privacy laws, and algorithmic biases.

That’s why the pendulum is swinging back to an internet governed by open, community-controlled services. This has only recently become possible, thanks to technologies arising from the blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

If users collectively hosted a social network on their computers using blockchain-style distributed computing, they could govern the network outside any tech company. Algorithm changes and deplatforming would be their decision.

I find this future intriguing and suspect it’s only a matter of time until such a tool arises. Perhaps you will build one!

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Photo: “Bitcoin ‘Blockchain’ Necklace” by btckeychain is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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