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The Value of Web3 Social, Explained

Lincoln Murr

Summary: Web3 social has been one of the hottest narratives in blockchain lately, with projects like Farcaster capturing the attention of hundreds of thousands of users and raising at a $1 billion valuation. However, the value of these protocols goes far beyond simply being a Twitter alternative with additional features: they hold the potential to be ...

Web3 social has been one of the hottest narratives in blockchain lately, with projects like Farcaster capturing the attention of hundreds of thousands of users and raising at a $1 billion valuation. However, the value of these protocols goes far beyond simply being a Twitter alternative with additional features: they hold the potential to be the beginning of a fully customizable, composable, and ownable social graph and the last account that anyone has to create. Let’s explore the benefits of Web3 social, some potential applications, and how it can achieve its lofty vision.

Web2 social, as exemplified by Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram, is characterized by closed networks where the majority of value goes to the network creator and operator, as opposed to the influencers and content consumers. When these networks were created and grew to billions of users, they were the only options for people to interact with one another on the internet. Over time, as their network effects grew, the value proposition of being on one of these protocols got exponentially stronger, as it became possible to have your entire internet experience on one of these platforms. 

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Though Web2 networks are the main factor behind the boom of the creator economy, they come with numerous problems and creator enforcement mechanisms that ultimately stifle growth. For example, Facebook owns the entirety of the data on its platform and can change its algorithms or users' behavior at will. If Facebook decides that an app built using its API is no longer of value to the platform, or it wants to take the features and directly implement them into the Facebook app, it can shut down the fledgling application with no reimbursement or warning to its creators. Similarly, if content is being published on Facebook that the company does not agree with, they can easily censor its publication and block the user from their platform, effectively removing them from the network of billions of users that the creator has cultivated. At this point, the creator must start with a new network on a different platform. Each Web2 network is siloed and individual to its company, making cultivating a universal online following cumbersome.

Web3 socials remove the restrictions imposed by Web2, allowing creators and users alike to permissionly own and curate their social graphs as they see fit. Instead of siloed networks for each different social app, Web3 social hopes to make a universal backend through which anyone can use and interact with whatever applications they so choose. Companies will solely build frontends, which cater to specific desired user experiences by providing different forms of content for consumption. Instead of competing on the strength of the network, companies will compete on their user interfaces, algorithms, and unique features like prioritizing video content or images. It would be like if a YouTuber had a text, video, and image feed all on the same account, and following them on YouTube automatically followed them on Twitter and Instagram. 

Not only does this system create a more equitable user experience, wherein the content is not policed or managed by one centralized entity, but it also allows for composability in a way that has never been seen before. For example, take the concept of subscribing to someone on Patreon. At the moment, this is a very isolated experience, where a user makes a payment to the creator and gets special privileges to watch premium content on Patreon but continues to act normally on other social medias. Imagine if the Patreon account was liked on Twitter, and they could add a badge to their profile demonstrating their interest and following in the creator. From there, entire communities could be built and have gated access around a user’s Patreon subscription status. At the same time, that person's fans could begin building special applications or software, like a premium ticketing service or merch store, with exclusive discounts to Patreon subscribers. The promise of one universal account, which can be facilitated through blockchain, offers nearly limitless opportunities for new forms of engagement and interaction within communities. 

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There are two main Web3 social juggernauts: Farcaster and Lens. Farcaster, whose primary product is a Twitter-esque platform for posting content and interacting with applications, has been extremely popular within crypto communities, and there has been a slow migration over to the platform from Twitter. 

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Lens Protocol is a social graph created by Avara, the creator of Aave. Its goal is to create a unified backend through which numerous frontends can create their own user experiences and interfaces. Though it has yet to take off in the same way as Farcaster, the possibilities for development upon Lens make it a compelling option for builders.

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With the introduction of account abstraction, using these Web3 socials is very close to feeling no different than joining a Web2 platform and signing up with an email and password. Coinbase’s Smart Wallet, a new account-abstracted wallet promising a near-seamless sign-on experience, should revolutionize how we interact with Web3 and could be part of the catalyst to bringing people onchain without them realizing it. 

Web3 social is an exciting and nascent industry with lots of potential. Though it has the monumental task of taking on big tech giants and overcoming their existing network effects, the promise of a unified social graph experience is enough to cause already hundreds of thousands to migrate to these new platforms. Whether or not Web3 social survives remains to be seen, but the prospect of permissionless and decentralized networks is enough to keep hopes high about its future. 

By Lincoln Murr

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