By Matthew Gould
On October 4, a six-hour Facebook, Inc. FB, Instagram, and WhatsApp outage sent the internet into a frenzy. For many in the United States this seemed silly - we can all spend a few hours without social media, right? Sure, most of us can skip scrolling for a bit, but it’s a different story abroad.
When the outage happened, communications were crippled for education, government, and medical care across places like Latin America, India, and Africa. People were unable to reach their families, teachers, doctors, and other critical resources, because many rely on Facebook’s messaging services where telecom infrastructure is less reliable. This shined a light on just how reliant the world is on centralized social media, and how greatly we need stiffer competition in the sector.
The good news is that the era of decentralized social media has begun, and it holds major promise. Blockchain networks that focus on digital identity, allowing people to connect globally while disconnecting their personal data and social graph from any one company, enable portability across platforms reducing reliance on any single service.
Decentralized social media allows people to own their digital identity and data online and move it around as they wish. When Facebook goes out, for example, you have no way to transfer your profile and contacts to a different service. But if you owned your digital identity online, however, you could switch services at the click of a button without losing years of information.
Blockchain-based NFT domain names are at the core of this, because they allow anyone to create a portable identity that can be used to move data between platforms. So instead of having a different username on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, you can have a single identity and store your data on your own. When we own our digital identity, we don’t have to worry about an engineer taking down an entire network just by a routine maintenance mistake, as was the case with Facebook. Blockchain domain names act as this gateway to a growing number of decentralized websites and services that are cracking the code to a new era of communication.
This ability for users to bring their own name and data to a platform is considered the next generation of the internet, or Web3. While the first generation of social media was built on Web2 technologies centered around corporate control, the next generation of social media will be built on Web3 principles, giving users much more control and privacy online.
Blockchain technology makes it possible to run a social network that doesn’t rely on centralized servers, making them immune to single points of failure. If a social network turns off and disconnects billions of people from communicating, people can simply take their data and plug into another service. This simple change in ownership online empowers users with more options. It increases competition for service providers like Facebook, as they will no longer be able to use their users’ network “lock in” effect to keep them dependent on the platform.
In the not-so-distant future, people will be able to use an NFT domain name to sign into a variety of services, bringing their own data (BYOD) to each app. This will both improve the user experience and prevent any one app from becoming too dominant based purely on it’s network connections, since all users will be able to carry their social networks with them.
Stiffer competition in social media is long overdue. I’m inspired by the promise of a future where social networking is powered by the people, not big tech. Each of us have access to the technology today to chip away at the dominance of Facebook, explore decentralization, and rethink the way we connect and communicate.
About the Author:
Matthew Gould is the Founder and CEO of Unstoppable Domains, a blockchain domain name provider with more than 1.4 million registered domains. Unstoppable Domains’ blockchain domain names replace cryptocurrency addresses with simple usernames, making it easier to send crypto and interact with the decentralized web.
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