Twitter’s former CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey was in the news last week for launching his new social media platform, Bluesky on the app store. Available at a beta testing stage, the app is a direct rival to Twitter in many ways, with an interface that is remarkably similar to Dorsey’s first microblogging venture – except that Bluesky is a decentralised Twitter spinoff.
According to experts, decentralised algorithms are the natural course of evolution for the internet. A decentralised internet is conceptualised to be a paradigm where consumers can access the internet and its services in a more democratic way, not mediated by big tech companies such as Meta, Google or Apple. Individuals can mediate and govern sections of the internet.
Decentralised algos are gaining popularity in cryptocurrency, NFTs, etc. Now with platforms such as Mastodon and Bluesky, decentralised social media platforms are also rising in popularity.
What are decentralised social media platforms?
In simple terms, decentralised social networks are networks where user data and content are stored on a blockchain and independent servers rather than centralized servers controlled by a single company. A traditional Web2 social media platform runs on a centralised server.
A key improvement from the traditional Web2 social media platforms is that a decentralised social network allows for more privacy and security and gives users control over their data, digital identity and content, fostering transparency, as anyone can view the data at any time.
What is the need for decentralised social media platforms?
Over the years users have seen increasing censorship by big tech, data exploitation, and non-democratic administration of their social media platforms. Tech platforms also collect user information such as personal information, unique identifiers, location data etc to better monetise their social media business.
As social media platforms evolve to become a digitised town square for public discourse, which is used for everything from socialising with your friends, entertainment, sharing news, and exchanging opinions, users are increasingly demanding better administration of their social media platform.
Increasingly users are also seeing one-sided censorship from billionaires owning such platforms. Elon Musk has also been accused of the same for Twitter. While handing over the platform to Musk, Dorsey too acknowledged that in principle, no one should own Twitter. It should be public good at a protocol level, to really make it broadly inclusive.
A decentralised social media platform achieves all of these things, simply because it is not owned by anyone.
How many decentralised social media platforms are currently there?
Bluesky is not the only decentralised social media platform. Other platforms that are in the market include Mastodon, Minds, and Steemit.
Will decentralised social media platforms become popular and replace traditional social media sites?
The centralised social media business model has been around for nearly 20 years, so one cannot expect it to change anytime soon. Big tech has made entire business models on centralised social media platforms, and users are also very used to such sites. This means that platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have the most to lose and are unlikely to follow decentralised platforms’ footsteps. In the short to medium term, social media platforms are here to stay.