Summary: For the past several years, many projects have tried and failed to create a decentralized social media platform. These projects, which typically frame themselves as a decentralized alternative to existing platforms like Twitter and Reddit, struggle to capture users because of tech companies' monopoly over social media networks. However, Farcaster is bucking this trend by ...
For the past several years, many projects have tried and failed to create a decentralized social media platform. These projects, which typically frame themselves as a decentralized alternative to existing platforms like Twitter and Reddit, struggle to capture users because of tech companies' monopoly over social media networks. However, Farcaster is bucking this trend by creating a “protocol for decentralized social apps” that has become incredibly popular over the last few weeks, reaching an impressive milestone of over 35,000 daily active users. Let’s explore Farcaster, its purpose and goals, and whether or not it will be here to stay.
To understand the value of Farcaster, it is first important to understand existing social media networks. Traditional platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok have ownership over their social network, meaning they control everything about the relationships between individuals and the posts and have the ability to moderate both users and content. Their algorithms are proprietary and highly guarded (except by Twitter), which has led to both distrust and frustration from users. If someone wants to leave Facebook or gets banned without notice, their entire network of relationships and connections vanishes, and there is no way for that user to keep their connections with others. These types of solutions were the basis for all modern social networks because centralized companies can much more easily construct, market, and facilitate a network that they have a strong incentive to own and grow. By creating a closed system and having a monopoly over online interactions, social media companies can extract maximal value from their networks and prevent any new entrants from threatening their dominance.
A decentralized social network, on the other hand, would not be owned or governed by any central company, but instead open and available for anyone to build upon or use. This is exactly the system that Farcaster has employed. It has created a network and a set of rules that anyone can build upon with their own client or point of interaction, allowing users to choose a user experience that best fits their preferences. It solves the four problems of identity, authentication, consistency, and availability, and leaves the rest to each individual client or developer to build and compose in whatever manner they prefer. Even if a user decides to leave their app of choice, they can bring with them their entire history of interactions and connections to another app, providing a level of interoperability that is not possible with existing social media apps. Most clients offer an experience similar to Twitter or Reddit, but Farcaster could expand into other organizational formats later. It is similar to Lens Protocol in this regard, which has been covered extensively here.
Farcaster uses Ethereum for authentication and identity purposes and stores Farcaster data in Hubs, a distributed set of servers that anyone can join.
Even though Farcaster has been in operation for about a year, it only recently took off due to the introduction of frames on Warpcast, the main Farcaster client, that provides a Twitter-like experience. Frames allow anyone to interact with social media posts in a completely new way and open up nearly infinite different actions to do. For example, one of the most popular frames allows users to click a button and check if their Farcaster-associated wallet has any airdrops available to claim. Others allow users to mint NFTs, open chat rooms, play games, and even order Girl Scout Cookies.
Will Farcaster rapidly overtake Twitter, Reddit, and all other social media platforms to become the new dominant super-app? Likely no. But it doesn’t have to in order to be a success. Farcaster is fighting a massive uphill battle, and re-initializing an entire social graph is no easy task for users hoping to join the platform and immediately have their Twitter experience seamlessly re-created. Every network starts with a group of enthusiast users, and what better community than people who care about the technology underpinning the network? For now, Farcaster will likely remain a blockchain enthusiast social media, but as distaste for existing social networks continues to fester, we may start to see mainstream users join and create their own communities on the network and enjoy the benefits that decentralized social graphs provide.
By Lincoln Murr