What is Decentralised Social Media?
Social media has become an integral part of most facets of our lives. From keeping in touch with friends and family to promoting businesses and running marketing campaigns, it’s not commonplace for us to share information about ourselves. It’s also a primary access point for accessing and consuming content from other people, brands and organisations that we’re interested in.
Decentralised social media is a method of delivering this through independent servers that are loosely interconnected. We’ll go into more detail a little later on, but the overarching principle is to provide social media platforms in a way that isn’t controlled by a single, central company, but is more of a cooperative between different servers and providers. Purportedly, the aim is to create a more representative, open and secure way of engaging with social media.
But, with a growing public and political appetite for the decentralisation of online content, what happens when traditional social media platforms are no longer enough? In this blog post, we’ll give a handy guide to decentralised social media, explaining where it came from and what it is. We’ll also investigate what the future for social media looks like against the backdrop of greater online diversity and how new innovations like the Fediverse and Blockchain will influence the social media landscape.
A Quick Guide to Decentralised Social Media
When most people consider social media, their mind immediately jumps to a handful of huge international brands like TikTok, Facebook and Twitter, and not without good reason. TikTok has around 1 billion monthly active users, while Twitter has almost 354 million. With Mark Zuckerberg’s Instagram and Facebook platform Metaverse capping 1.4 billion active users, too, it’s clear that the existing social media represent the largest market share.
However, social media is a much more disparate and varied field than you might at first think, and the new trend of decentralised social media has been gaining traction for some time now. But what is decentralised social media?
Source: Broadband Search
How Does Decentralised Social Media Work?
Well, as the name might imply, decentralised social media platforms are those that aren’t controlled by a single parent company in the style of Twitter, Facebook or TikTok. As an alternative, they’re built on decentralised technologies like blockchain, allowing them to work in a more openly distributed and less centralised way.
While traditional social media still has a significant role to play, there are increasing advantages to using decentralised social media platforms. For example, the lack of a central authority that controls or removes content gives creators more scope and freedom, while users also have more control over their data and can choose how it’s used and shared. This is often facilitated through blockchain technology that creates a broader, more disparate network of servers that manage and store data.
Why is Decentralised Social Media Becoming More Popular?
Now that we’ve established how decentralised social media works, it’s important to understand what spurred the call for a less central social media landscape. The increased data security we’ve mentioned above seems to be a driving factor for new users. Twitter, Facebook and TikTok have all been embroiled in data-related scandals in the past, which have significantly impacted them not only financially but in the public image, too. In fact, studies show that while people are content to rely on and use social media as a personal and business tool, they struggle to trust global social media corporations like Twitter, Facebook and TikTok and have an appetite for more transparency and data security.
What is the Fediverse?
In order to fill this gap in the market, developers and investors are expressing a greater interest in a federal social media system, colloquially known as the ‘Fediverse.’ An easy way to think of the Fediverse is to consider the way phones work. When you make a call, your network provider puts you in contact with whoever it is you’re calling. This works easily and seamlessly because the different network providers are connected with each other without being the same organisation.
The aim of the Fediverse is to work in a similar way but for social media platforms. It’s planned to operate as a collaboration of numerous independent social media servers that connect with each other on a use-by-use basis, giving users the capability to engage with those on other platforms as if on a single social network.
It’s a bold idea and could prompt significant questions about what the future of social media holds, as, in theory, it could lead to a safer and more flexible approach to online interaction.
What Will the Near Future Look Like?
While decentralised social media is gaining traction, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a significant shift very soon. Predominantly, this is due to the fact that most decentralised social media and Fediverse sites still have a limited level of functionality. According to testers and users, many platforms feel more like blogging sites than true social medial platforms and can be complex to use and understand, creating a barrier for the average consumer.
Perhaps the most glaring issue when considering how decentralised social media can work better, though, is the volatility of cryptocurrency. While several decentralised social media platforms like Steemit and Minds are engaging with crypto-currencies as ‘incentives’ for people to use the sites, this thinking may backfire as studies show that people see crypto-currency as inherently untrustworthy. In order to compete effectively with the larger social media organisations, decentralised social media platforms have to appeal to a much broader audience which means prioritising ease of use and reliability.
So, for the time being, we can expect the social media titans like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to continue to dominate. Ease of use and established brand awareness will make shifting them as the primary choice for both businesses and individuals a challenge, but with the increased awareness of decentralised social media, it could be a challenge some feel like undertaking.
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