NEWSFLASH: We have been living in a world where your digital identity makes corporate behemoths unfathomably rich. If you’re well aware how broken the current social media paradigm is, please feel free to skip to the next section. If you need a reminder, just go ahead and read everything below.
Your data has been held hostage – years of your contributions are held ransom dissuading you from even considering switching social media platforms. On top of that, you were misled – falsely believing that things you marked “private” would not be subject to data analysis and sold on the open market.
Reality: social media hasn’t ever been “free”.
Perhaps you thought that social media was “free”. If so, you certainly weren’t alone. Billions of people were apparently confused. In reality, the high costs the world has paid for “free” social media platforms are not even those embedded deeply in the fine print. The highest costs have been the concentration of power and profits that have resulted from this centralization. The monetization models that appear “free” to users are not in the best interest of free individuals – or even democracies broadly.
In exchange for the use of a platform that hides its costs – every user has become a product. Advertisers have been armed with troves of private data. Influence brokers can steer national elections and dialogue. Sensationalism, tribalism, and pessimism get clicks – but they can also distort world views and drive people apart.
The worst part of it is, speaking out against centralization and power concentrations can now be censored more easily than ever before. Not only do these platforms have their own incentives to censor discussion, but governments can easily demand they do so.
Centralized social media isn’t free.
Two billion people are using a handful of centralized social media platforms. This is an incredible amount of power in the hands of a few. The solution isn’t regulation – swapping technocrats for bureaucrats. The solution is to give people – individuals – more education and more control of their online identities and their data.
Of those two billion social media participants, only a tiny fraction of them own cryptocurrencies. The rest are scoffing about wild speculation and blockchains having no utility. Remember, they were confused about the high costs of “free” platforms… they’re confused again about the lack of utility blockchains are capable of realizing. They’re already being used to solve real-world problems.
Peepeth: Decentralized Social Media
So, what preceded was a bit of required background knowledge to appreciate the importance of decentralized social media platforms…
Now, please, allow me to introduce you to Peepeth.com – that’s “Peep Eth” – a decentralized social media platform for microblogging. It’s a Twitter clone, but don’t let appearances fool you. Peepeth’s monetization model, its purpose, its backend infrastructure – couldn’t be further from the “free” platforms of yesteryear. It’s taking something you’ve grown familiar with and understand how to use – and democratizing it for the world.
Peepeth is built on the Ethereum blockchain and, like all such dApps, participating requires a small amount of Ether. That is to say – it is not “free” – it does not hide costs from users. Using Peepeth costs the equivalent of a few American cents for an entire day of standard interactions.
Freedom Isn’t Free
To simply say that it is worth those few pennies would be to grossly understate the damage that the “free” model has done to the world. The importance of the paradigm shift that will soon take place in the social media space is not to be trivialized. This is a shift that Peepeth isn’t just taking part in, but is actually laying the ground work for.
In exchange for your cents, your online identity and your personal freedoms will no longer be tangential considerations. Free people or “free” services – choose one… and please choose responsibly.
What Does Digital Freedom Look Like?
Your username on the Peepeth platform is controlled by you. It can’t be taken away or shut down by anyone else, because it isn’t controlled by anyone else. You alone control your identity and credentials via a “wallet” (which may sound complicated, but is getting trivially easy to use on all devices). You also control how much private data you link to that online identity – there are no “real name” mandates because Peepeth’s purpose isn’t to sell your personal data to advertisers.
If Peepeth.com goes offline, you don’t automatically lose your data or your username. Peepeth doesn’t own the database that stores its users’ data – it uses the Ethereum blockchain and The Interplanetary File System (IPFS). This means anyone, anywhere, can build websites that interact with that same data – no more data being held hostage. If you want to switch platforms, you can take all your data with you – every picture, every post, every interaction. Digital freedom.
This is going to lead to greater innovation. Currently, only network effects matter – and overcoming them, even in light of corporate bad behavior, is an expensive and often insurmountable task. With a platform like Peepeth sharing the back-end infrastructure with the world, developers and users are finally free to experiment with new ways for people to engage and interact with their friends online. The best sites – not just the biggest – can draw users. Everyone can compete and users will always win.
To be clear, those few pennies you pay for interacting on the network – those don’t go to the developers. Those go to secure the open infrastructure that is the Ethereum network. So, how are the developers going to get paid? They’re going to have to get creative with their funding models, because competition is probably going to push advertisements out of the picture.
Peepeth currently allows you to “tip” other users for content. For providing a nice interface and fostering a desirable culture, 10% of all tips go to the Peepeth devs. If you want the site to link to and verify ownership of your Twitter account, the devs collect a small fee. Later, expect more experimentation on this front – it’s going to be interesting and rapidly evolving.
It’s Not All About Money
What’s great about all of this infrastructure being open to anyone is that developers of all kinds can build front-ends… not just corporations. Which means the motivations behind development need not always be limited to enriching shareholders. The motivations can be diverse – possibly even geared towards *gasp* enriching lives or humanity. This is uncharted territory.
Case in point: Peepeth is still currently an-invite only platform, something like a nearly-perfected public beta. The list of features yet to come is a mile long, but one of the things that was prioritized was the ability to buy a mosquito badge for your digital identity on the Peepeth platform. The only way to get that badge is to donate to the Against Malaria Foundation. The Peepeth dev is signaling a deeper concern for doing good than getting rich. I told you this is a paradigm shift.
You can read about the Peepth Malaria Badge initiative here.
When saying something costs – even just a fraction of a cent – you can expect less spam. When posts are going to be publicly preserved, indefinitely on the blockchain, you can expect more well-considered interactions. When showing appreciation for content costs something of value – the quality of content receiving admiration may be of a higher quality. When developers are permitted to care about things aside from profits, without being at a disadvantage, world-views might improve.
Suddenly, social media is capable of being truly valuable. Not just for corporate behemoths, but for people – for the world. Imagine that.
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This is not speculation. This is utility.
This is the start of a paradigm shift from “free” to freedom.
Check it out over on Peepeth.com.
I’m passionate about blockchains. I’m excited about decentralization, autonomous organizations, cryptocurrencies, and uncensorable dApps.
I’m also overwhelmed – with questions about these cutting edge technologies. I want to understand the tech, the politics, and the implications of the blockchain revolution.
Most of all, I want to share what I discover – because broader understanding will lead to greater participation, more rapid adoption, and, subsequently, a better world.