Standardizing Social Capital
0xda70
July 11th, 2022

A think piece about the practicalities of social networks and what they could enable if they were standardized and automated with new tech. Should this be on-chain though?

Social capital is the value of an individual's interpersonal relationship network that enables society to function effectively.

These networks and interactions have always been a convoluted system of the “who knows who”. Your social capital is the quality and quantity of your relationships, who you’re connected to and how. Having a solid network comes with immense privilege. 

With the progress of moving most of our social interactions online, across a range of multi-purpose social platforms, it's getting harder to keep track of our connections and conversations.

If we want to live in a world where your social capital is truly yours, not a platforms or giga corporations, a privacy oriented standardized graph will be essential. This decentralized and open map of relationships among people, will be the backbone of seamless internet experience. This is heavily the thesis of Web3 technology, it holds the key for us to get the internet there.

"Your network is your net worth" as the saying goes, rightfully so.

social networks before:

They are a combination of internet and IRL friends. If we look on the data side, the "proof of connection" with them are names in notepads, phone numbers, email addresses and connection data stored in each app we added them on.

We meet someone new at work and want to add them on social media, but we find ourselves adding them one by one on every platform we have in common. If we want to start using another app with way better features, we have to leave connections behind or add each one manually.

social networks with web3:

It is like the version before but way faster, more open and global. It is not just contacts in our phones, accounts and friends on separate platforms, but fully in our possession on the web. The storage of this graph is not on private servers anymore, making portability possible and thus increasing the benefits and usability of the network itself. Interacting with it will require much less time and intermediaries.

Credentials, points, achievements, proof of connections, followers will be fully with us on every platform like a resume. We can start a new phase of your life without losing the old one. While, for the first time, we are in full control, what part of this is accessible to others. 

The benefits of maintaining and growing this graph are obvious, our whole society functions around this, in a form of job opportunities, introductions, party invitations and other favors.

Should this be on-chain or off-chain?

If it is on an open-source, privacy oriented chain and platform agnostic network, available to you at all times, heck YES.

If this is not possible, we are better off keeping most of it off-chain. But then how do we gain portability and ownership over it?

Concern

We do have to consider, that while standardizing this delicate social network, there is a danger of distorting the human element of the interactions and it could lead to these becoming more transactional. "Follow for follow?”

I would argue that this capitalistic way of gathering interactions and friends like Pokemons, could be avoided if we keep the emphasis on the human element and less on the tech. People in the center and tech in between them.

The fine line here are the intentions. If these are genuine connections with new mates on-line or off-line, people intrinsically can tell the difference anyway.

Web3 solutions rn

Individual identity:

Lens Protocol- permissionless & decentralized social graph on Polygon to help builders make Web3 more composable.

CyberConnect- a decentralized social graph protocol that helps dApps bootstrap network effects and build personalized social experiences.

Both of these are solving the problem of ownership, siloed connections and social networks, so the new platforms can be pre-populated with network data.

Group identity:

Guild- cross platform permissioning for groups. A social signal layer for communities and individuals. Agnostic about data to be on- or off-chain, solves the cross-platform network part, while aggregating credentials of identity protocols. I only know this inside scoop because I co-founded it lol.

Storage:

Kepler- Set where your data are stored using smart contracts controlled by your keys, then manage access and permissions from there.

Ceramic- decentralized infrastructure for data, for developers.

The bottom line:

The benefits of a global, permissionless, decentralized network where your social graph is truly owned by you are clear as day. There are concerns of distorting the human element of relationships and the details of data storage, privacy, accessibility and how much we'll put on-chain are still up for debate.

How will we get to where your social capital is standardized and truly yours? Will we each choose our favorite solution, stay segmented socially but united in tech or find a common ground and grow from there?

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