Social Media Onchain

Social media platforms have evolved in a variety of different ways. Some are about sharing things with friends, and many of them have become a way for creators to put content into the world to entertain an audience. It very much feels like the dominant platforms today have become sterile. We use them, but they’re not fulfilling, nor do they have the pioneering sense of adventure and wonder they did as they emerged many years ago. 

Recently I wrote about how something magical is happening onchain in consumer social. The Warpcast community feels like the early days of Twitter, and the openness of Farcaster has made the feed an experimental playground similar to early Facebook when third-party apps like Zynga could build companies on top of the FB social graph.

There’s an emergent playbook for building consumer social apps in web3. It begins with a skeuomorphic version of the web2 counterpart that the crypto community embraces. People onchain have a real willingness to experiment with new things, so acquiring early users is much easier in web3 right now than it is or was in web2. During this first phase, it’s important for application developers to hone in on what makes their product uniquely differentiated from their offchain comp. What are some of the defining characteristics that are only possible onchain, and how will that create preference amongst users so it can cross the chasm to a non-crypto audience? Here are some early and obvious ideas:

  • Applications that enable creators to monetize have the ability to offer meaningfully lower costs. This is the “your margin is my opportunity” play. Why pay Patreon a high rake when you can use Hypersub? Why Substack when you can use Paragraph which is 50% cheaper? Less extractive fees will create economic preference amongst creators, and these savings can be reinvested in their art and livelihood. 

  • Financialization is a major feature of crypto. With onchain social media, creators can do things like allow their audience to benefit and participate in a creator’s growth and upside economically. That’s something that has never existed before and a real incentive for fans to help creators expand their audience and flourish. 

  • We talk a lot about the ability to own your audience and bring it with you wherever you go. This is one of the pillar features of web3. Farcaster cannot shut down your account the way Elon Musk can. Your audience belongs to you which means that you can distribute an infinite variety of content to them through a multitude of different applications and interfaces. 

  • Open data and composability enable a lot of experimental things to happen in crypto. Usually when someone shares media to a platform, it stays within the confines of that platform. It’s hard for it to proliferate across the internet and make its way into a variety of different applications. The only place this really happens in web2 is when a publisher embeds a tweet, instagram, or video. In web3, an atomic piece of media or data can be reshared across any onchain platform, and a creator can and will consistently be compensated for its distribution regardless of where it was originally posted. Because media is tied to your identity instead of a specific platform, it can live in many different places simultaneously, wherever you choose to go. That is immensely powerful. 

There are still plenty of hurdles to deliver a UX that will draw in an offchain user base. Current onchain social applications are too insidery. Connecting crypto wallets is not something the average internet user understands. Paying with tokens is not a widespread behavior. These things will need to ultimately be abstracted away from UX in order to onboard billions of people. Fortunately, many tools that help solve these issues are being developed and adopted.

Ultimately, users go where their friends and content creators are, and creators go to pockets of the internet where they can get distribution. Right now, given the lack of a scaled onchain social network, robust distribution is a missing link for offchain creators looking to make the migration. Perhaps the rapid experimentation and composable nature of onchain consumer applications will help to solve this problem. We may very well find that sooner rather than later web3 offers a much richer distribution opportunity across a variety of different networks and platforms, and there’s an argument that it’s easier to be early to a network and build an audience as opposed to arriving late to the party. It seems that the right approach is not to try to convince web2’s biggest creators to drink the kool-aid, but to make sure that the onchain gravity is so strong that tomorrow’s biggest creators emerge on web3.

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