Individuals are more frequently turning to social media for information, publishing, and entertainment. However, concentrated players such as Facebook, Tiktok, and Twitter have been chastised for misusing users’ data and employing biased moderation. Web3 alternatives have reached the market, and rival independent social media platforms are now striving to tackle this twenty-first-century issue. With scalability and widespread acceptance challenges, the idea of a large shift to decentralized social media is being questioned.

Web3 vs. Web2 social media is like David vs. Goliath

What are we doing now?
Today, there are around 3.8 billion social media users, and the number of users is growing year after year due to the growth of lower-cost mobile devices throughout the world.

Global social media users expected until 2027

While digital networks is a part of everyday life, it is almost as intoxicating and harmful as it is useful. Established platforms have been chastised for biased moderation, data exploitation, addictive algorithms, and isolated habitats. To properly ‘repair’ social media, a total conceptual shift is required, and decentralized social media services are the nearest we’ve gotten to a genuinely collaborative social space.

Reshaping Social Media from the Top Down
While web2 firms focus on social media as a single product, web3 companies expand the concept of social networks into numerous levels. The foundation layer is a social graph, which maps profiles, followers, and their relationships. The app layer comes next, where users may consume information and engage with their social graphs. Consider web2.

Consider social networks to be followers, and app layers to be feeds. There is no one entity controlling the social networks via blockchains. Instead of being a product controlled by a company, your social network becomes an asset.

A visual comparison of centralized and decentralized social networks

Clearly, the appeal of controlling your social graph isn’t enough to persuade billions of people to abandon their current products. Another need to fill is that consumers are increasingly dissatisfied with social media regulations and CEOs. Aside from data ownership concerns, complaints about fragmented followings, censorship, and closed source algorithms present an opportunity for Decentralized Social Media (DeSoc) to seize market dominance. There is, arguably, no better moment for this probable DeSoc changeover than now.

Existing consumers want an unique value, and DeSoc can serve as a catalyst for crypto acceptance, which is in need of a popular product to stimulate its market adoption stage.

Internet and cryptocurrency adoption curves

Taking on the Problems

Web2 followers and connections are isolated within each app, but web3 social networks allow you to bring your followers with you to each app. Consider how much easier and time you’d save if you could have all of your YouTube followers automatically follow you when you open an Instagram page for your company. The benefit of isolating the social graph from the app layer is that your graph remains consistent while the app layer is adaptable. The prospect of future customizability

With prospective customizability, the potential of a self-permissioned subscriber transfer, in which only selected fans are carried over, is simply implementable.

Existing Web2 Social Media Issues

When considering moderation and censorship, the concept of owning your relationships becomes even more important. Donald Trump was banned from Twitter and then went on to create his own social media program, Truth Social. With that change, he lost his existing following and was pushed deeper into an echo chamber. It is still significantly harsher for individuals who are not political leaders and face losing their jobs as a result of social media restrictions. Rival DeSoc apps are experimenting with various moderating strategies in order to stay within legal limitations while avoiding the excess of web2 regulation.

Lens, DeSo, Cyberconnect, and SubSocial impose moderation

Lens protocol, a Polygon-based social network layer, offers possibly the finest approach to moderation: they just leave moderation to the app layers where the information is uploaded. Users that are restricted or filtered on one app layer can easily switch to another protocol that provides a comparable experience. Users can maintain all of their followers and carry on as if nothing had occurred. Instead of making social media platforms the arbiters of truth and hate speech, users may now engage with whatever frontend accepts their material. This is truly a free-market experience!

The last piece of the social media jigsaw is to solve algorithms. Popular social media is now perhaps more valuable than gold.

Popular social networking platforms, like the Holy Grail, keep their algorithms from escaping into the public realm. These algorithms, on the other hand, are meant to be as addictive as possible. These corporations earn from your data, but they get more data from you. You currently have no control on the algorithms. You have no choice but to view more encouraging films one day and a less addictive algorithm the next. Individuals can design open-sourced algorithms or several app layers with various algorithms in a DeSoc protocol to give consumers more choice over the material they see. This is not just a step forward in modifiability, but it might also be game-changing for the next era of social media users so that they do not becoming as obsessed as present Gen-Z consumers

The Trilemma of Autonomous social media

Though DeSoc appears to be the solution to all of our web2 social media concerns, there is no perfect solution. Yes, DeSoc overcomes the concerns listed above, but it also brings new ones. We invented the term “DeSoc Trilemma” to describe the compromises made while creating a DeSoc protocol in terms of security, scalability, and user experience (UX). In a small variation on Vitalik’s “Blockchain Trilemma,” no protocol we’ve looked at has been able to properly maximize all three properties.

Scalability vs. Security

In this trilemma, security refers to two things: the decentralization of a blockchain and the executor of transactions. A system’s decentralization

The process of decentralizing a blockchain is straightforward: as more validators are added, blockchains grow more decentralized and safer. This, however, creates a trade-off between security and scalability. The harder it is to scale a blockchain, the more decentralized and secure it is. That explains why no DeSoc system could ever fully exist on Ethereum, as the gas prices are too expensive and the network would get overcrowded. For the time being, until Zk-rollups become affordable and practical, a DeSoc protocol must function on a sidechain, sub/supernet, or standalone L1. The most secure blockchains are not the greatest homes for DeSoc protocols, although to be fair, these protocols, unlike DeFi protocols, do not require the security of Ethereum.

UX vs. security

When it comes to code execution, certain DeSoc protocols run the operations themselves. For example, a person can follow someone by just signing a message. They do not pay the gas fee or carry out the transaction; instead, this is handled by the protocol. This presents the trade-off between security and user experience. Obfuscating gas taxes is a huge step forward in user experience. Imagine having to pay a little portion of Instagram’s AWS cost every time you wanted to post! In fact, the ideal user experience is one in which you link your wallet but never have to deal with metamask pop-ups requesting that you sign contracts or pay for transactions.

This comes at the expense of granting smart contracts more permissions and control over your wallet, which are vulnerable to hacking. While it promotes widespread adoption, it contradicts the decentralized nature of web3. UX is perhaps the most significant barrier to crypto adoption; in order to encourage wider adoption, decentralization maximis may need to turn a blind eye.

In fact, when it comes to tradeoffs between security and UX for transaction execution, Lens’ gasless API is the market leader. The API enables users to conduct transactions on a blockchain network for free. It puts DeSoc on par with free web2 social networking. The gasless API lets users to scroll instead of waiting for their transaction to complete.
The gasless API eliminates the need for users to wait until their transaction is complete, allowing them to navigate to the next article and continue their conversations without interruption.

The API allows the user to simply sign a message (for example, as a remark), after which a relayer gets the message and posts the data on chain, completing the transaction. Because the relayer must verify a signature and then publish the data on-chain, this technique consumes somewhat more gas. However, it makes the user’s experience significantly more engaging and gratifying. The app layer platform is needed to pay the gas fees, which means Lenster or LensFrens would be responsible for the costs.

While using the gas-less API requires users to rely on the relayer to publish the transaction on-chain rather than completing the transaction themselves, the trade-offs are worth it, considering that social media posts do not require the same level of security as financial transactions. Furthermore, relayers have additional flexibility; with an hour grace time for formally putting transactions on-chain, they may avoid periods of high gas expenses.

Scalability vs. User Experience

The tradeoffs between UX and scalability are more difficult to assess. Consider DeSo (not to be confused with the word DeSoc we’ve been using), a blockchain designed exclusively for social applications. DeSo has grown to more than 1.5 million users (far greater than competitors like Lens, with just over 50,000 profiles) It lacks the surrounding ecology, however, from which Polygon users might profit, such as gaming and DeFi protocols. Consider using your Lens profile on Polygon as collateral in a DeFi protocol to obtain a loan. This value-additive composability benefit simply does not present in DeSo or any other DeSoc protocol built on stand-alone blockchains. Similarly, Cyberconnect, which has over a million accounts, is incredibly scalable since it is blockchain agnostic, allowing you to take your social network to any blockchain. However, because to the nature of its architecture, Cyberconnect cannot utilise NFTs within its ecosystem. While reducing computation and streamlining the entire design process is beneficial, losing NFT compatibility is a huge loss. Consider the lens, where NFTs are used.

Consider Lens, where NFTs reflect both your profile and your followers. It allows for the secondary selling of profiles, so establishing an altogether new market. Don’t want to start a meme account with a significant following? Simply purchase an NFT profile that appeals to that niche. Additionally, NFTs allow artists to earn additional money. By making postings collectable, producers may add exclusivity and hence charge a price for the material.

Could perhaps Devolved Digital Media Become a Normality?

Decentralized social networking sites may be the only viable answer to the problems consumers have with present web2 social media sites. But the issue remains: is mass acceptance ever possible? According to reports, the decentralization maxis will have to raise the white flag in order to prioritize.

To prioritize UX and scalability so that DeSoc can finally find sustainable product market fit, the decentralization maxis will have to wave the white flag. To further push customizability and avoid moderation difficulties that present in web2, the best strategy looks to be the separation of social graphs and app layers. Eventually, favouring composability by developing on distributed systems with communities outside of digital platforms, such as gaming and finance, as well as leveraging NFTs within the layout, allows for the best user experience while offering optionalities not found in today’s social network design.

Natasha Dean

With an eye for detail and understanding of this exciting industry. My experience has given me an understanding of crypto trends and how to effectively break them down. I have a soft spot for NFTs and the Metaverse.