Social Media

What Is Decentralized Social Media?

These days, if you want to get in touch with a friend, there’s a good chance you’ll use social media to do so. Whether we want to check the news, chat with a loved one, or share life updates, connecting via the web has become a big part of our day-to-day routines. But decentralized social media, a relatively new phenomenon, is now beginning to carve out a presence in the industry.

But what is decentralized social media? And will it one day replace the social media we know today?

What Is Decentralization?

You may have already heard the term “decentralization” when reading about cryptocurrency or NFTs. This kind of technology has become incredibly popular in recent years, as it allows for a more transparent, fair, and secure network. In a decentralized network, no one entity ever holds all the data. Instead, data is spread between nodes, or connection points, within the network.

This structure makes it much harder for a network to be overruled and controlled by an attacker. There is also no central administrator for the network, creating a more democratized and collaborative environment.

Of course, decentralization is the backbone of the crypto industry, with all transactions being stored safely on a blockchain. But how exactly would social media and decentralization merge?

The most important thing to note about decentralized social media is that it doesn’t consist of one central server. Many of the biggest social media networks out there today, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are all centralized, meaning one core authority holds all the power over the network. This can be dangerous, as it increases the risk of large-scale hacks, takeovers, and leaks.

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Decentralized social media outlets have a very special characteristic: multiple distributed networks can exist within them. This means that individuals can choose which network they’d like to join. Any user can create their own network, allowing for individuals with similar interests or ideas to connect.

These platforms use a system of governance instead of the word of a few individuals to make decisions. Users can vote on things to have their say in how the platform progresses, instead of having to go along with whatever the central authority wants.

So, decentralized social media outlets offer a fresh take on digital communication, wherein multiple networks can exist within one platform, all of which are controlled by independent servers.

So, what does this mean for us as users and social media companies themselves?

Increased Security

Decentralized social media platforms use multiple, independent servers to function, unlike traditional platforms. You may have heard of popular social media networks malfunctioning in the past because the server crashed, and this is actually not an uncommon occurrence.

So, by using multiple servers, the chance of a total network failure due to technical error is massively reduced. Additionally, the likelihood of DDoS attacks is greatly decreased by using this kind of distributed system.

What’s more, users don’t need to traditionally identify themselves on decentralized social media networks. They can choose to go by pseudonyms, giving them an added layer of privacy.


Increased User Control

There’s another element that users just don’t have enough of when using social media platforms—and that’s control. A social media network is defined by its users and develops in accordance with user demand. So, it makes sense that the users themselves should harbor some kind of control within the social network they’re using.

This is one of the core concepts behind decentralized social media. Giving users control of their data, their interactions, and their social media experience as a whole is key to providing a fair and equal network for all. Avoiding potential Big Tech censorship is another big plus of this increased user control.

But decentralized networks aren’t perfect. Like every kind of technology, decentralized social media has its drawbacks.

The Main Drawbacks of Decentralized Social Media

There’s no doubt that decentralized social media platforms offer some exciting perks. But there are some risks associated with this kind of technology, the first of which being that malicious individuals can take advantage of how it is structured.

While the idea of creating multiple, decentralized networks sounds pretty cool, there’s always a chance that hate speech, propaganda, and illegal content could quickly spread through the creation of harmful communities. Because you can post what you want within your own network, it becomes that much easier for malicious groups to spread their beliefs publicly.

While many decentralized social media networks have an ethical code of conduct, individuals may try to exploit smaller or newer networks that haven’t got everything figured out yet.

Additionally, there’s a chance that users with a common goal could try to corrupt or manipulate the governance system in their favor, meaning that the platform itself would no longer be fair.

With so many possibilities being offered by decentralized social media, you may be wondering if it even exists yet. And, yes, decentralized social platforms are already in use.

A particularly well-known decentralized social media platform is Mastodon, has amassed over four million users since its launch in 2016. This platform consists of multiple internal networks for different communities, allowing users to connect with like-minded individuals. There are even anti-abuse tools on offer to protect users from harassment and other dangers.

A number of blockchain-based social platforms like Steemit are also currently operating.

But these outlets aren’t gaining nearly as much traction as traditional networks like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. So, why is this?

Firstly, the whole idea of decentralization is still very alien to many individuals. At the moment, only tech lovers and crypto or NFT enthusiasts know a lot about how decentralization works, as this technology simply doesn’t have enough of a public presence for many to need to learn about it.

What’s more, many decentralized social networks aren’t as user-friendly as the biggest platforms out there today, and the simplicity or complexity of an app’s interface is often what makes or breaks its success. On top of this, many people simply aren’t aware of how social media platforms can mishandle data and censor content, so there currently isn’t much of a public need for a new kind of online communication.

For the moment, decentralized social media platforms may remain more of a niche, alternative social network option than anything else.

Social networks are incredibly intricate machines that take years to fine-tune. This is why it may take some years for decentralized social media platforms to become relevant and useful enough for larger numbers of people to give them a try.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have potential. With people becoming more and more frustrated by Big Tech and its regular mistakes, we may certainly see a shift to decentralized communication in the not too distant future.



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