Like, follow, retweet, infinite scrolling, share.. those words have become part of our daily life. We are immersed in social media, so much, that we spent more time interacting there than in real life.
We love dancing with algorithms.
Social media has become an integral part of our lives, with users spending an average of 151 minutes per day on various platforms. While these platforms offer amazing opportunities to connect, share, and unleash our creativity, they are also subject to algorithmic control that shapes our interactions, opinions, and engagement.
We can see the social media platforms like walled gardens, where users interact within a closed ecosystem controlled by an entity. These companies own basically everything..users' identities, data, relationships, and decide who can join and what developers can build. Designed and operated by corporations with their own goals and interests. Feels like a big party hosted by a single person, controlling - who's invited, the music, the rules, etc.
On platforms like TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram, social media algorithms shape how we interact with one another, giving rise to a clickbait culture. Creators face pressure to adapt their content to fit algorithmic rules and compete for followers and attention in a platform economy.
To maximize advertising revenue, platforms present users with content that captures their attention and engages them. YouTube promotes content to hold viewers' interest, from news, music, or now short videos. Their algorithms aim to maximize user engagement and keep users on the platform as long as possible.
TikTok, tells users, "We'll show you what you want; you don't need to choose."
These power dynamics persist in social media, as platforms decide winners and losers while commercial partnerships exploit the system. For example, Heating's TikTok feature reveals that sometimes a video that appears on the "For You" page isn't there because TikTok thinks you'll like it; rather, it's there because TikTok wants a particular brand or creator to get more views.
Creative work must conform to algorithmic constraints and platform rules. You need to have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours over the past year before you can monetize your YouTube content. You’d probably need about 500,000 views to earn $1,000 from ads.
Pop songs are now adapted into 15-second TikTok clips, and YouTube videos stretch beyond 8 minutes to accommodate ad breaks.
Creators are dependent on algorithms. To monetize their work, they need to put in hours of research on how to create for attention. Hours of research to interpret how the algorithm works:
Creators face pressure to consistently produce, promote, and engage with their content. And since they have little control over how their work appears on feeds, they must constantly adapt to ever-changing algorithms, like those on YouTube or Twitter. This dependence on platforms perpetuates a clickbait culture where content is designed to be promoted by algorithmic recommendations.
The top 3 Google search results get 54.4% of all clicks. It’s everywhere, if you get a great catch-up phrase, you get the attention.
The creator economy has transformed the way we think about social media, turning fans into revenue streams and making, a lot of the time, monetization a primary goal of content creation.
Creators are forced to compete with one another for followers and attention in a platform economy that favors algorithm-optimized content over thoughtful or insightful contributions.
It’s not only the algorithm, but also the content that makes it viral. Social media changed a lot in the last decade, where video content is the most consumed, with an average of 55.8 minutes per day.
All these social media platforms copy each other to introduce the same feature just to retain the users in their walled gardens. CtrlC-CtrlV all over the Internet.
Tencent added a feature several years ago that allowed viewers to record side-by-side reactions to any video. It was immediately incorporated by Bytedance and became one of TikTok's most popular features during the pandemic.
If an app can’t quite keep up with the current rules, they just need to duplicate a feature and manage the usage within the app. TikTok isn’t the king of Short form content anymore. YouTube Shorts are growing faster than Reels & TikTok in the last months.
Why is this trending so much?
Short-form videos (60 seconds or less) are watched 12 times more than long-form videos (10 minutes or more).
Short-form videos are shared 30 times more often than long-form videos.
You need something quick and funny, and algorithms know that.
Why do we need to learn each algorithm and content type for every social media? Why can’t we post on one site and be viewed on another one? Why I cannot create an account that is portable in any other application? Why content can’t be cross-platformed consumed?
That can be the future of social media. Going back to our roots, to interact with protocols instead of closed apps.
Remember when the Internet was simple and open? That was thanks to protocols like TCP/IP or HTML, which created a lot of value, but most of that value was captured by applications like Facebook and Google. On blockchains, however, the value capture equation might be flipped: protocols could both create and capture most of the value driven by the apps built on them.
Think of protocols as the rules of a game and applications as the players. Right now, in the world of social media, the players are more powerful than the rules. We need to change that. What if the rules of the game were more important, allowing us to play fair and equally?
Algorithms need greater transparency and accountability to ensure creators can generate value for the platforms and tools they use, without being denied ownership rights.
Here's how we can do that:
Unmask the algorithms: Social media platforms should show us how their algorithms tick. This way, we'll understand better and even the tech-savvy among us can suggest ways to make things better.
Explain why things happen: If a platform decides to remove a channel, it should tell us why. By being more open about these decisions, we can build more trust with them.
Show reasons for bans: When a platform decides to ban or remove some content, that should be transparent. This will help us understand what's allowed and what crosses the line on these platforms.
So far, Twitter took the lead, it happened, it’s a start:
Since 31st March, Twitter “For You” feed algorithm is live on GitHub and is available for anyone to access & track the updates regarding the algorithm changes.
Their rules change all the time, first they boost Blue subscribers, threads, comments, but for external links, you never know what’s the final decision.
All these changes should be made in a way that's decentralized, just like the original Internet protocols.
Currently, social media platforms control user data and value, creating a lock-in mechanism that prevents you from transferring the value you've created on one platform to another.
Companies and communities are built on dependencies. It's the risk associated with being overly reliant on one platform. If someone had built a Twitter following and developed an audience there, the platform risk is evident when that app disappears, and all that audience goes with it. Or they just shut you down. There were a lot of channels that went down on platforms like Youtube, such as the known case in web3 with Bankless.
It will be necessary for creators to own online infrastructure in order to create a more equitable power dynamic for the creator economy. Creators generate value for the platforms and tools they use but are excluded from any ownership rights.
Having users drop by your website or take a look at your content it’s not enough anymore. Creators and brands need to truly own their social media traffic by gaining a deeper understanding of their audience's interests and needs. That's why we’re seeing a boom in newsletters and exclusive online communities.
There’s also a shift in user behavior demanding more than just providing content to passively consume. Modern users are seeking an immersive experience; they crave the ability to interact with the content they consume and feel part of a community.
The sense of belonging sometimes translates to being a paid subscriber. To have a badge that says you’re part of that community, to get more curated content, and have more reach and security. Nothing new for web3, right PFPs?
Social media knows how to monetize this, most platforms introduced premium features: YouTube premium, LinkedIn premium, Reddit premium, Discord nitro, Meta subscriptions, Snapchat plus, and lastly Twitter blue. More than 50% of Blue subscribers have less than 1000 followers but this helps them to get more engagement.
This is also an advantage for brands and creators having an easier way to identify their profiles against fake bot accounts that are continuously spamming.
The concept of owning your online identity and content is central to creating a more equitable and empowering social media landscape.
A protocol where your social capital – your followers, connections, and content – could be easily transferred between social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook. Post a short on TikTok and get engagement on Youtube.
This would not only foster innovation and competition among platforms but also empower creators and users alike.
Value accrued not to one company but to the underlying social graph protocol itself. On protocols like Farcaster, Lens, or Bluesky your social capital becomes portable and monetizable across many applications. Let’s take a look at Farcaster:
You get a profile from day one.
You can build your own algorithms.
You will never lose your graph.
You can use the client that resonates more with you.
Why can’t users be free to build? We need to make it happen. Web3 provides this. As a developer you can build everything without asking for permission from TikTok, you can build a client on top of the protocol. You can own your social graph, but also the data and messages:
Own your data: Ceramic is enabling a decentralized data network for building web3 applications with composable data on top of it.
Own your messages: XTMP is an open protocol for messaging between profiles.
Yup integrated Lens, Bluesky, and Farcaster protocol to be able to cross-post to your favorite client.
The key to achieving this is the decentralization of identity and the use of portable profiles.
No need for multiple accounts for each platform, but one profile that I can connect to any application without losing my data.
We can enable users to freely switch between social apps by removing corporate control, making it difficult for any single application to gain disproportionate power.
To reduce platform dependency, creators should embrace decentralized solutions that allow their transactions, collectors, contributions, and audience to be securely stored on-chain. Interoperability, both technically and socially, plays a crucial role in this process.
Using a decentralized protocol we can reduce censorship, and data manipulation and ensure information remains accurate and authentic:
Content creators receive recognition for their work by tracking and preserving the content’s origin. Plus they can add royalties to any interaction with their content.
Blockchain-based tokens make it easy to verify the exact moment when content was created, minimizing false claims and deepfakes, and helping authenticate original content within the AI content-generated paradigm.
Creators and brands are realizing that in current social media apps, they have lost what makes them unique, they have lost their community. Web3 is all about community and the future of media is tokenized:
Impressions & Likes → Participation & Value
Attention Economy → Retention Economy
Clickbait Headlines → Relevant Discourse
One-Way Information → Decentralized Curation
Unique Visitors → Unique Holders
In web3, digital ownership is front and center. For the first time since the origins of the internet, the blockchain allows for root ownership. Now media companies and creators can build community in a digital asset economy as an end in itself and monetize directly by sharing in the value that they create. - NFTNow.
Tokens powered by blockchain technology can help us create an Internet that's owned by us, the users.
Protocols that transform us into owners of digital content, interactions, and our graphs. The success of the network is in the hands of the users, who are incentivized to contribute to its growth.
User ownership is transforming how people transact, invest, create, build, play, learn, communicate, and socialize. This opens to data transparency and how creators can learn about their collectors with on-chain data.
Bello is a no-code blockchain analytics tool that helps creators learn more about their collectors:
what NFTs do they hold
what communities they are part of
what could be the pricing distribution for the next drop
Think of it as your personal Sherlock Holmes, helping you understand your audience and their on-chain activities.
By distributing financial and governance power among users and contributors, an ownership economy can emerge, empowering creators through insights into their audience's interests and on-chain activities.
As we move towards a future of data transparency, creators, curators, and communities will be better equipped to discover and connect with their most engaged fans across the entire social ecosystem, free from gatekeepers and centralized databases.
Everything can become collectible. And everything can be in our wallets.
We're looking at how great it'd be to shift towards decentralized protocols in the social media landscape we're used to. But, as exciting as it sounds, there are a few things we still need to sort out.
While blockchain technology does offer enhanced privacy in some ways, it also has the potential to expose more user data if not properly designed. For example, all transactions on a blockchain are visible to all participants, which could lead to issues with anonymity if identifiable information is included in these transactions.
Do we really want everything on-chain? Users should be able to decide what information they want to display. A solution can be the use of Zero-Knowledge Proof for this.
Zero-knowledge proof is like being able to prove you have a secret recipe without revealing the ingredients. You can confirm the authenticity of the recipe (your data or transaction) without disclosing any details.
If you want to prove that you have some bit of reputation, you did some transaction or minted content, then you can do a zero-knowledge proof that says here is the decryption of one thing.
Your data, your control.
Whether we like it or not, without some ‘centralization’, quality control and moderation of content can be challenging. This could potentially lead to an increase in spam, hate speech, or other harmful content.
Instead of having a single entity control what content we see, what if the users themselves could decide? The idea of having user-controlled content curation and distribution, a DAO managing the algorithms.
Algorithms are governed by a curator DAO, being responsible for determining how the algorithm functions and how content is ranked and displayed on a specific platform. Members of the DAO would be able to vote on changes to the algorithm, ensuring a transparent and democratic decision-making process. It won’t be an entity, but the community deciding how content should be distributed within the protocol or specific client.
Users won’t transition to new apps where they only see barriers; wallets, tokens, gas, blockchains, etc.
Web3 platforms can feel a bit like learning a new language compared to the usual, more straightforward web2 platforms. This can be a hurdle, especially for folks who aren't super into tech. We need to make sure we're designing easy-to-use interfaces and providing guidance.
The application layer can focus on smooth onboarding:
Wallet-less signup: we are all used to the “connect wallet” prompt on any dApp, but what’s the purpose of this if there aren’t transactions? We can make it simple from the start. Sign up using your existing social logins and only switch on the blockchain connection when it’s actually required.
Gas-less minting: one big turn-off for new users experimenting in this space, is the gas costs. Users shouldn’t worry about this. Gas-less platforms would make it easier for everyone to contribute and provide value to the underline protocol. For now, at least on L2.
We would be able to onboard so many new communities into our ecosystem if we could start with wallets that do not require funds to operate.
A new paradigm of social media is inevitable. As we understand more about the power dynamics and the influence of algorithms, it becomes clear that a shift towards more transparent, decentralized platforms is not just desirable, but necessary.
Embracing web3 and user ownership, we're on the verge of a revolution in the digital space. This will empower creators, curators, and communities, giving them the tools and control they need to improve their digital life.
This new era will demand a radical rethink of how we interact with social media. We should reconsider what engagement means and how users become part of the content generation and its curation.
This will require an abandonment of clickbait culture, a shift towards more meaningful content creation, and a reimagining of social media as a tool for genuine connection rather than a platform for competition.
The Internet didn’t take off until we had social features until we had a reason to be there. We're seeing the same path with web3. NFTs have been a game changer, helping people realize that our time spent online has real value - and that's a value we can own.