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What Does Web3 Social Need to Succeed?

What are some of the challenges that decentralized social media needs to address?
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By Tasmiha Khan for Trust Machines

In the ever-evolving landscape of online interactions, the term "decentralized social media" has become a buzzword, with Web3 social apps gaining attention. However, these platforms seem to rise and fall rapidly, leaving users and enthusiasts questioning their staying power. This article explores the rise of decentralized social media, specifically focusing on the challenges hindering its success and longevity.

Web3 refers to the third generation of the World Wide Web, aiming to transform the internet into a more decentralized and user-centric space. While Web1 was characterized by read-only websites and Web2 introduced interactive and social platforms, Web3 seeks to address issues of centralization, data ownership, and user privacy. Cryptocurrencies and NFTs are part of this new wave of Web3 technology, along with the growing landscape of decentralized applications that users can engage with today.

An Introduction to Decentralized Social Media Platforms

Recently, Alpha, built on the Bitcoin blockchain, joined the decentralized social space, aligning with the SocialFi movement. SocialFi is an integral part of decentralized social, it emphasizes incentive models for creators and followers.

The emergence of platforms like Friend.tech and Alpha reflects the growing interest in decentralized social media. However, despite the attention, these platforms face hurdles that hinder their sustained success.

Challenges in the Decentralized Social Media Landscape

In many ways, Web3 social platforms face challenges similar to those experienced by Web2 platforms and are grappling for many of the same success metrics.

This success relies on three pivotal factors:

Efficient onboarding

Seamless user onboarding is critical for Web3 social platforms, similar to Web2 counterparts. However, the complexity escalates with Web3 due to blockchain technology. Educating users about concepts like wallets, private keys, and decentralized applications remains a hurdle. Simplifying these technical aspects and creating intuitive interfaces are imperative to onboard users efficiently.

Engaging gamification

Web2 platforms have effectively utilized gamification to retain user interest through badges, rewards, and interactive elements. Similarly, Web3 social platforms need engaging gamification strategies. This could involve token incentives, NFT-based rewards, or unique blockchain-driven mechanics. The challenge lies in balancing decentralization while creating captivating gamified experiences to retain user engagement.

Achieving critical mass

Like Web2 platforms, Web3 social platforms rely on achieving critical mass for sustainability. However, obstacles exist in transitioning users unfamiliar with blockchain technology. Scalability concerns and competition also lower a potential user base. Simplifying blockchain complexities, emphasizing user benefits, and providing compelling incentives for active participation would help aid the issue.

The Key Challenges

As more decentralized social and SocialFi protocols appear on Bitcoin and other blockchains, a number of challenges have sprung up. These challenges have, in their own ways, posed their own barriers to the growth of decentralized social networks and, as a result, to their mass adoption.

Educational barriers and security concerns

As mentioned earlier, one major hurdle is the lack of understanding of blockchain technology among users. Explaining the decentralized social concept proves challenging, as many are unfamiliar with the workings of blockchain. 

The recent leak at Friend.tech, which exposed wallet addresses associated with Twitter accounts, highlighted potential security risks. This incident fueled misconceptions about the safety of blockchain technology, contributing to skepticism among users.

Scalability issues

The scalability of current blockchain technology poses a significant challenge. Mass adoption requires platforms to handle a massive volume of posts and interactions every second. Alpha, running with a solution called Trustless Computer, incorporates optimistic roll ups as a scaling solution. However, this technology is in its early stages, raising doubts about its ability to meet the data demands of widespread adoption. Additionally, the complexity of concepts like L2s and rollup technology adds to the difficulty of user comprehension.

Sustainable economic models

Sustainable economic models are crucial for the success of SocialFi platforms. Users are incentivized with tokens for interacting with others, but the value of these tokens depends on the platform's user base. If users leave or the platform faces a decline, the tokens lose value, posing a challenge to the sustainability of the economic model.

Competition with Web2 social giants

The transition from Web2 to Web3 social is a complex task, especially when competing with established giants like Twitter and Instagram. Friend.tech's initial success was attributed to its complementary nature with Twitter rather than attempting direct competition. Despite its eventual failure, this approach raises questions about the potential sustainability of decentralized social platforms. An interview in Blockworks suggests that the ability to port content from Web2 platforms or facilitate a seamless transition for users may be key to success.

Addressing the Future of Decentralized Social Media

Decentralized social media is often considered the missing block of Web3, yet significant challenges persist. The SocialFi aspect requires immediate attention and resolution. Education about blockchain technology, scalability improvements, sustainable economic models, and strategic approaches to competing with Web2 giants are essential steps for the longevity of decentralized social media platforms.

As the Web3 era continues to grow, addressing these challenges will be crucial for decentralized social media to realize its full potential and become a permanent fixture in the digital landscape. The journey towards a decentralized future is undoubtedly complex, but with strategic adjustments and user-focused solutions, the decentralized social media space may find the stability it needs to thrive.

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