🗿 Social Media is Broken

Some thoughts on why we need onchain social – and what an open-source...

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GM. A US billionaire wants to buy TikTok and decentralize it. Some thoughts on why we need onchain social – and what an open-source TikTok would look like.

Without Further Ado. ☕ *knuckle cracks* ☕ Let’s get into it.

Is Open-Source The Solution To Tech Dystopia?

Social apps come and go. But one thing stays the same: we have no control over our data.

Clubhouse broke 2M+ downloads before falling off a cliff. Lens.xyz is an alt-Twitter protocol – once praised by hundreds of thousands of crypto users – and today is flat. Airchat launched meaningfully in April 2024, topping out aroud 50,000 downloads, before losing steam.

There is one darling child right now: on-chain social app Farcaster is as strong as ever, announcing a $150M funding round this month. They’re posting 30,000 daily active users. But as we’ve seen … who knows how long that will last.

Simply put, no one has rivaled Meta since TikTok first exploded in 2020. So why do VCs and founders keep investing in social?

Well, for starters, social media is the most powerful medium of communication to ever exist. But I think people continue to invest in new platforms because many also recognize how existing social media is inherently broken.

Billions of people use Instagram, Facebook, X, and TikTok daily. Millions post original content and share their thoughts, feelings, experiences, pictures, videos, and voices. And users own zero of that data. It’s wholly forfeited to the platforms where we post – and we are feeding data models enough information to manipulate our desires and leave us addicted to our phones, craving for more.

Seems like a pretty good deal for tech – but consumers won’t have the short end of the stick forever. With increasing pressure from regulators, social platforms will continue to lose their hegemony over users.

Plus, we’ve all seen the increased prevalence of advertising. What was once an engaging timeline of diverse and dynamic entertainment has become one super scroll infomercial of countless brands and products. Social media companies depend on maximizing revenue, and their app’s content (and ultimately user experience) will suffer.

Not even to mention our growing desire to move life offline and “unplug”. Teenagers are more anxious and depressed than ever, is it a coincidence that it has moved nearly in perfect stride with the advent of social media?

The internet is inevitably moving toward open-source models, and a globally recognized open-source social media platform could create not only an enhanced experience, but a more equitable outcome for humanity.

As it turns out, one billionaire named Frank McCourt wants to leverage an open-source protocol called the Decentralized Social Networking Protocol (DSNP) from Project Liberty to transform the world’s fastest growing media company. In theory, it could be built on a parachain called Frequency – launched on the Polkadot network.

It sounds like a pipe dream, and he would have to win a competitive bid to achieve his mission, but the potential impact of an open TikTok is undeniable.

Under an open-source model, TikTok could:

  • Increase opportunities for small business owners

  • Derisk cyber security attacks and data breaches. With code publicly available, developers and security experts can quickly identify and fix vulnerabilities, leading to a more secure platform.

  • Increase transparency and foster trust among its users.

  • Build a collective innovation of developers worldwide who can contribute new features, improvements, and bug fixes.

  • Allow users and developers to customize their experience or create niche platform versions tailored to specific communities or interests.

  • Offer adaptable compliance with local regulations and cultural norms, making it more versatile for global use.

  • Accelerate innovation as developers can quickly implement and test new features without waiting for approval from a centralized authority.

  • Create a thriving ecosystem of third-party apps, plugins, and integrations, enhancing the platform's overall user experience and functionality.

Do you think TikTok (and other major social media companies) could one day become open-source?

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What We’re Reading

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  • OpenAI’s news deals continue, with Vox and the Atlantic signing on (Washington Post)

  • BYD unveils new hybrid tech as battle with gasoline rivals heats up (Reuters)

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