Will blockchains be the answer to social media tech companies dominance?

Does the likes of Facebook and Twitter influence your thoughts and decisions?

“How absurd! I am an independent rational thinker. I make my own decisions”, said the naive user

In spite of how high we regard ourselves, there are hundreds of researches out there which prove that we are irrational. In fact I would recommend you to read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. In this book, he has run multiple experiments and shown the irrationality in our decisions

Marketers use psychological techniques to influence you to buy products. For example, in your social media feed, you may be shown a video of an iPhone unboxing. If you happen to hover there for a fraction of seconds, the algorithm understands that this video caught your attention and it would start serving more such videos in your feed

When you saw the first video, you may have been perfectly content with your existing phone however as you see the second video, the inception of the idea of a new phone gets implanted. You would soon start looking for excuses to buy a new phone. To top this, the algorithm would start showing you a bunch of “influencers” who flaunt their gadgets. As you start getting served more and more videos or images, the urge for self gratification hits the peak and you bid farewell to your money

Hint: Tell this to a friend and expect to get a dirty look. After all, how can "I" be manipulated!

This has become rampant since the last couple of years and it had got me thinking on how our decisions are manipulated. In fact this blog, provide a good infographics to marketing professionals on which platform to use when. The manipulation is not just limited to purchasing decisions but extends to our political beliefs too. This article from Guardian talks about how other countries are influencing US elections

My concerns on social media’s influence heightened when the sitting US President got dethroned from Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, Reddit, YouTube, Instagram, Google, Amazon, Apple, Spotify, Pinterest, etc. He literally became non-existant

Whether you are a Trump supporter or not, this incident shows us the dominance of the tech giants. They have the clout to shut off a sitting US president and make him irrelevant!

The scary part is that these companies did not act based on government order but by their own discretion – a group of unelected Tech Corporates choosing for the people

We could argue that their action was justifiable but what happens the next time when they decide Biden shouldn’t be the candidate as he is increasing corporate taxes. Can they then choose to silence him too?

I have been pondering on a solve to reign in the tech giants; how do we reduce their manipulation and how do we not allow them to quell a voice which doesn’t suit their outlook

I discovered a plausible answer as I was researching in the cryptospace! I have been lately pouring over web 3.0, smart contracts and blockchain technology and the huge potential it has to solve known and unknown problems

The plausible answer is DApps!

DApps are distributed apps, whose backend code runs in a decentralised peer to peer network over a blockchain and runs autonomously through smart contracts

Lets unpack them, one by one

  • Backend code & database is what processes the requests from the user. In today’s world, this would be in a central server controlled by an owner of the application aka Facebook. In the blockchain world, this resides in many computers aka nodes
  • Decentralised peer to peer is an extension of what we discussed above i.e. the backend code and database is distributed across different nodes and the computers talk to each other aka peer-to-peer. Remember bit-torrent?
  • Blockchain can be considered as an excel sheet where each time something is changed, that change is appended as a separate row (aka blocks). Post addition, it cannot be modified
  • Smart contracts are if-then conditions that are pre-programmed so that a contract can be executed only if the mentioned conditions are met. In a way, you can consider smart contracts as a replacement to escrow accounts. So for example, if I were to sell you my photography book for Rs. 499/-, then that amount will be received by me, only if you have received the book

To keep it simple (not getting into blockchains), DApps do not have a centralised storage. They reside in thousands of computers across the globe, so there is no central entity or server controlling these. By implication this means that, there is no single entity which will be able to take a unilateral decision to remove an app or modify

Does DApss exists?

Yup, one popular platform is Ethereum which supports DApps on its smartchain. Here Ethereum provides the blockchain for developers to develop DApps, in return you pay “Gas fees” for using the services. This gas fees are used to incentivise the nodes who store & process your information. Because your app is in several nodes across the globe, it will never go offline nor can anyone remove it

In fact while researching, I found this website which is offering its services to build DApps like Facebook and here is steemit.com which is a blockchain based blogging platform

So in a few years, will we have our next social media platforms built on blockchains with no censorships?

Tell me what you think?

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