Social Media DApps Grow, Seek to Challenge Web 2.0

DApp development appears to be gaining momentum lately, as their innovation continues apace. Among these are social media dapps, decentralized alternative to the current social media mainstays (Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter). Many promote characteristics that make blockchains unique: verification of news and information, transparency, secure monetary transactions and lack of censorship. Here are a few that are gaining ground


Platform: Ethereum blockchain
Launched: 2017
Activity: 241 monthly users

One of the most popular social networks on the Ethereum blockchain, Indorse, is a professional peer-to-peer network similar to LinkedIn. Unlike LinkedIn, however, skills on Indorse are verified, and the users own their content. In the DApp, users share skills and activities. For each asserted ability, each user needs to provide proof of expertise, which is then verified separately by a moderator. Other users can also back up that claim by endorsing those skills. The more endorsements a user earns – and the more endorsements they make – the more Indorse rewards them with Indorse Bucks (which become IND tokens) and a higher their Indorse Score. IND tokens may be used within the DApp to purchase advertising or company profile pages. Users may also exchange the tokens on DApps like TenX and CoinDash. Finally, Indorse shares advertising revenue from the site with its users.


Platform: STEEM blockchain
Launched: 2017
Activity: 1,310 pageviews per day

One of the more controversial social platforms, DTube, is a decentralized video platform built to emulate YouTube. There is no cost to upload content, and any video can earn rewards for up to seven days based on the votes it receives. DTube has attracted significant attention recently in the wake of YouTube’s decision to ban some videos and allow potential advertisers to opt out of their ads playing before specific content, thus making it more difficult for creators to monetize videos. DTube’s policy to not ban any legal content has made it an attractive alternative for right-wing political channels, pro-gun enthusiasts, conspiracy theorists and others angered by the new policies.

“I feel like if you don’t want to have conspiracy-based content on the platform because you feel like there’s a moral conundrum there with having a platform that is spreading this misinformation by way of being able to host it, I wish they would come out and say it,” said Anthony Fantano in an interview with Polygon.

Fantano, a popular music critic on YouTube who recently began posting on DTube, also said in the interview that he sees the addition of other video networks as a positive for creators, stating that it bothered him that “the competition has sort of become stagnant.”


Platform: Ethereum
Launched: 2018
Activity: 500,000 pageviews per day

Minds, a social DApp similar to Facebook, launched on the Ethereum blockchain in August. Like its blockchain brethren, Minds does not regulate content and rewards users with tokens based on their contributions. What is interesting here is that Minds also allows participants to use those tokens to support each other in Patreon fashion and pay for exclusive content. Minds also formalizes the pay-for-likes phenomenon that has been happening informally on traditional social media for some time. In the DApp, users can use tokens to either buy News Feed Boosts (which operate similarly to Facebook ads) or pay for Peer-to-Peer Boosts in which users pay another Minds user to share their post.

Ease of use, control of content and compensation for content are all strengths of the social network, but Minds’ creators also emphasize a strong commitment to non-partisanship.

Indeed, founder and CEO Bill Ottman said in an April interview with Wired magazine that censoring offensive content could do more harm than good by raising the profile of such ideals. “While we could ban those ideas from our platform—we would OK, yes, we would maybe be keeping the platform a little bit safer for people—but on a broader social view, we would actually be contributing to the problem,” he argues. “The censorship that’s happening on Twitter and Facebook, it has no understanding of nuance, they’re using AI algorithms to just go through it all and there’s just a lot of collateral damage.”

In a press release announcing Minds’ Ethereum launch, Elizabeth McCauley, blockchain business developer and Minds adviser noted, “When governments crack down on free speech and team with centralized social media surveillance companies, (Minds) provides a refuge for individuals seeking an avenue for global interaction and idea exchange.”

Platform: Bitcoin Cash
Launched: 2018
Activity: 3,640 users

Memo varies a bit from other social media DApps listed here in that it relies upon Bitcoin Cash, and since its launch in April, BCH fans have been using Memo to build profiles and post uncensored messages including video, pictures, and animations as well as text. There is a cost to post memos, but it is minimal. Memo duplicates most of the functions of Twitter except retweets (a feature in the planning stages), tagging users, and flagging posts or users.

To some, using a decentralized cryptocurrency network for Twitter-like communication is scope-creep at best. In a system designed to record and ensure the accuracy of financial transactions, keeping a record of every message could hamper growth. If Memo continues to grow its creators will have to address this issue with limits on message storage or provide another solution; however, the value of the DApp may not be as a substitute for Twitter, but – like its blockchain peers – in providing access to news and communication in areas where Twitter is banned.


Platform: Kovan Ethereum
Launched: In development

Experty is a global communication app similar to Skype. However, Experty is specifically designed to connect knowledge providers to a broader audience and assist them in receiving payment for their services through blockchain technology. Providers may advertise their services through a direct call link or Qr code that can be placed on any social media platform. When a call is complete, Experty settles the charges based on the provider’s established rate per minute. The Android app is currently still in testing on the Kovan Ethereum network and, as of July 29, was expected to be released to the mainnet in 30 – 90 days.

Concluding Remarks

Social Media-style DApps have a long way to go before they significantly challenge their centralized cousins. However, simply being a viable and attractive alternative is enough at this stage of blockchain development. Expect these dapps to invariably grow in the near future if users continue to lose faith in those under centralized control.

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