The major outage affecting Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp users has highlighted the potential benefits of a new decentralized social media project known as ‘DESO’.
DESO, which officially launched last month, uses blockchain technology to power multiple social media applications that are immune from the shortcomings of centralized infrastructure.
The technology is new – and arguably experimental – but the billions of people waiting for Facebook to come back online may be starting to see its potential.
What is DESO?
The DESO blockchain was only launched last month, but had been (not-so) “secretly” trialled since earlier this year on a platform called ‘BitClout.’
For many months, the creator of BitClout was known only by the pseudonym ‘Diamondhands’, but he recently came forward to reveal himself as Nader Al-Naji, a former Google software engineer who has been working on DESO for two and a half years.
“We launched BitClout as a prototype, we just wanted a few hundred users, but it blew up and major celebrities got hold of it (and) started joining,” Al-Naji told CNBC.
“Over a hundred developers started building on the blockchain, even though it didn’t have a name … and so this ecosystem got built overnight.”
Al-Naji claims DESO has interesting new features that can move social media away from an advertising-based model, to a model where users support each other through investment and tipping.
The idea is that creators, whether they be media outlets, writers or artists, can make more money and forge a closer relationship with their followers.
Competing with Facebook
As the the creator of DESO, Nader Al-Naji may be biased, but he believes DESO is a “very exciting” project, which does have the potential to compete with existing social media giants like Facebook and Twitter.
“Facebook has scale on a monopolised pool of content, (but) what DESO is doing is creating an open pool of content that anybody can build on,” Al-Naji said.
“When you have an open pool of content … suddenly every developer all over the world can start creating social applications in a way that they can’t do today.
“And that can create the economy of scale needed to – for the first time – be able to compete with the centralized monopolistic platforms.”
Is decentralized social media the future?
Al-Naji believes DESO has the potential to disrupt social media just like Bitcoin and Ethereum are disrupting the financial system.
“There hasn’t been a blockchain yet that’s capable of being used to build social applications,” he said.
“So DESO is the first blockchain of its kind for that and that’s really exciting because it opens up a whole new category for disruption for blockchain technology.”
Al-Naji points out that if a developer wants to build on Facebook’s data, it can’t because the company is centralized and will never allow it.
However, he says when you switch to content being stored on a blockchain, rather than with a company, you can create an open ecosystem that anybody can build on top of and money is given directly to creators of content.
“It’s just orders of magnitude better for the creator, while also creating a tighter and more engaging relationship with the fan,” Al-Naji said.
“So when you start putting data on the blockchain rather than a private company you get this growth which is really, really exciting.”
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