Author: Supercrypto and the USC Blockchain Community; Original Translation: Qianwen, ChainCatcher
Superscrypt’s mission is to support founders and projects that can bring the next wave of users to the blockchain field. We take a research-oriented approach to identify key Web3 components that will drive how we interact, create, and share value on a global scale. Today, we join Web3 social by publishing blogs on Mirror and Link 3 to share our perspectives with the world.
How to explore Web3 social?
The use of decentralized blockchain technology is changing the way the world operates. While the most popular use cases for blockchain are financialization (tokens, DeFi, and NFTs), the technology-driven social networks will support the development of new forms of identity, data ownership, and communication functions. In this article, we will explore the core value propositions of Web3 social, the operations of various protocols and platforms, the current fit between products and markets, and the potential for it to become the future of user online interaction, community building, socializing, and trading.
The best way to understand the feasibility of Web3 social is to first understand how past waves of innovation formed and evaluate whether Web3 social has similar characteristics. Waves of innovation emerge at the intersection of technological innovation and new consumer/business value; they change the way our world operates, and the impacts often become evident in hindsight. Just like in the real world, a tsunami is often followed by several big waves. Silicon chips and the internet were tsunamis, and personal computing, e-commerce, digital financial services, and Web2 social platforms were the subsequent waves. In the Web3 field, blockchain is the new tsunami, followed by waves such as decentralized finance, dapps, and NFTs. Will Web3 social platforms become the new wave? Can it provide more added value compared to previous revolutions?
Data openness and portability
The social media applications we use today leverage complex underlying data networks to power our experiences, known as “social graphs”; interconnected data structures that map out our digital relationships and interactions, the objects we follow and subscribe to, the content we like, and so on. In Web 2.0, social graphs are proprietary systems, with all assets, data, and behavior analytics owned or controlled by internet companies. Users lack true ownership or control over this data, so social graphs are “isolated” and disconnected from other platforms; our identities and experiences are likely to never be cross-platform connected. To use a new platform, users have to rebuild their past social relationships and history, which creates significant user experience friction and locks users into specific platforms. If end-users want to switch from one application to another, they have to start from scratch.
How is Web3 social different? First, it aims to establish a foundational layer where users’ social graph data is transparent, permissionless, and portable, and most importantly, controlled by the users themselves. We call this pattern “open data”.
Open data allows users to easily use new applications based on the same social graph without dealing with redundancy. Anyone using the Web3 social platform can use their data for any application they want. Imagine Joe Rogan (American comedian) decides to leave Spotify, currently his and other creators’ access to their fans, subscribers, and content is limited, in some ways he has to start over on another platform. With Joe Rogan’s popularity, this shouldn’t be a problem, but for 99% of artists, this means a lot of difficulties.
Isolated data hinders independent developers from utilizing these social graphs and building new experiences and applications for users on top of them. Therefore, innovation in the field of social applications faces a huge cold start problem. New social apps are often developed but fail to gain attention. In the world of Web3 social, if users can bring their own data and friends with them, they may be more willing to try new social experiences. An example of a novel Web3 social experience is Link 3, a social app based on the CyberConnect protocol. Link 3 is a mix of LinkedIn, Medium, and Eventbrite, but embedded with cryptographic primitives – allowing users to connect wallets, NFTs, and ENS names to build their profiles and influence.
Eliminating data silos also reduces the entry barriers for new developers and reduces the network effects of social graphs, otherwise social graphs will monopolize user data. Open data allows applications to read and write data from multiple social graph protocols; users can connect IDs from multiple Web3 social profiles to one or more applications. Phaver is a good example, it connects social graphs of users from different networks in one interface by integrating with the Lens Protocol and CyberConnect.
Open data standards provide us with open boundaries for content creation
Currently, we see examples of open data in existing Web2 social applications. META, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, recently launched Threads. While the long-term value of Threads as an application is yet to be determined, Threads allows users to immediately follow Instagram friends and connect with them upon registration. However, user data on Instagram and Threads is still isolated within META’s walls. Threads has announced the possibility of integrating with ActivityPub, a standard communication protocol that allows users to interact with all platforms using ActivityPub, but the integration has not been implemented yet.
The closed nature of Web2 social also has a huge impact on businesses operating on these platforms. Reddit recently implemented API pricing, leading to the closure of multiple applications and causing strong community dissatisfaction. If Reddit were built on Web3 social infrastructure, this would not be a problem, as these applications and communities could bring their fans and content to new platforms with more favorable conditions or more consistent value.
In terms of content creation, because users are not locked into one platform, creators can choose to migrate to different applications while retaining ownership of their social graph data, thereby alleviating situations where platforms change their monetization, management, or revenue sharing models. In Web2 social, data silos hinder this freedom of choice for creators.
Composability: Unlocking a Sea of New Possibilities
Because Web3 social protocols are deployed on the blockchain, they are typically highly compatible with other smart contracts and protocols. This open data architecture allows developers of new cryptocurrency innovations to freely integrate with Web3 social protocols and applications, such as connecting a user’s on-chain history to populate their social profiles, displaying the NFTs they own as credentials, and enabling them to convert their own content and posts into NFTs for potential sale. Traditional social media lacks composability, and even in the few cases of integration between cryptocurrency and Web2 social, it is neither native nor complete.
Combined with open data, the composability of Web3 allows creative developers to integrate their social platforms with cryptographic protocols—from DeFi applications, metaverse games, DAOs, and NFTs to everything in between. For example, Warpcast is a platform based on the Farcaster protocol that allows users to find other members of the same NFT community, holders of the same POAP, and even link ENS domains to their profiles. These features are achieved by connecting Ethereum addresses to profiles, creating an on-chain identity. Other platforms also offer similar features, with some platforms (such as Phaver) allowing users to link Lens profiles, ENS domains, and Farcaster IDs to a profile. Another example of Web3 composability is the subscription model of CyberConnect, which allows users to define relationships between creators and subscribers through the powerful feature of “Subscribe NFTs”.
Another possibility is SocialFi, a concept recently written about by Mason Nystrom of Variant Capital. SocialFi refers to the integration of the social layer and financial layer in people’s digital lives. Imagine what traditional social media platforms could do if they had unrestricted access to traditional financial exchanges, banks, loan providers, crowdfunding platforms, and more. Other features of SocialFi include enabling micro-payments on Web3 social applications, on-chain lending credit scores linked to social identities, and biometric identity verification linked to social profiles.
With the continuous expansion and development of Web3 primitives, the possibilities of cryptocurrency composability are endless—new experiences await us.
Empowering Communities to the Next Level
Blockchain infrastructure is a powerful tool that brings people together for a common goal. In recent years, we have seen this in action: token-driven communities coming together to bid on the US Constitution (ConstitutionDAO), voting for DeFi protocol governance (Uniswap, Safe, Maker, Gnosis), investing in digital art (such as PleasrDAO), and building social clubs around NFT collections. Participants become owners and highly engaged stakeholders.
Combining innovative technologies like dynamic NFTs with emerging Web3 social protocols takes these experiences to the next level. Integrating real-world data with Web3 further enhances this experience; for example, authentication, purchasing, social relationships, and more relevant communities will also emerge, making genuine connections easier to form and new business forms will emerge.
At the same time, a visual Web3 social graph can be created, which is connected by complete identities (such as NFT files or other forms of tokens) that can reference each other based on similar characteristics. Through open data and transparency, the platform can automatically generate communities based on profiles that share similar characteristics with other profiles in the social graph.
Some thought experiments include:
A Web3 platform similar to LinkedIn where users can attach an identifier to their profiles that links them to their alma mater, for example in the form of NFT attributes. The platform can automatically create an alumni network community for users who have the same alma mater; in a similar way, it can also automatically create global communities that are not affected by the data moat of Web2. It allows not only individuals to join communities, but also artists, writers, influencers, and other creators to establish communities with everyone who follows them.
Imagine if an author sells a book with an attached NFT, then each NFT holder (also the authenticated buyer of the book) can join a community to discuss the book and communicate with the author. As we will see soon, actual examples of Web3 community functionality include users of Warpcast and other Web3 social applications who can easily find other users’ profiles within the same NFT owner community. These forms of globally unified community functionality go beyond what Web2 can currently achieve.
The Web3 social application Orb is turning these thought experiments into reality. Orb allows any on-chain activity or owned item to be transformed into a cohesive community. For example, behaviors based on owning a specific number of ERC-20 tokens, holding specific event NFT tickets or collectibles can form different communities. Web3 social allows for community building and making friends in new ways, and it goes deeper than the current methods.
Censorship Resistance and Ownership
Regardless of beliefs or opinions, freedom of speech and expression are the cornerstones of social media, although the extent to which they are exercised has always been controversial. Given the strong control traditional social platforms have over our data, they are in an absolute position of power to control online speech and, at their discretion, revoke a user’s platform privileges. Users have no choice but to accept.
Recently, an instance of platform control was demonstrated after Elon Musk took over Twitter (now renamed “X”). The Twitter Files are a series of leaked internal Twitter documents that reveal how the company’s application suppresses and controls information on the platform based on government requests or information it deems unsafe. While Elon advocated for truth and transparency through the document, ironically, after Twitter was renamed “X”, the company unceremoniously took away the “@x” account from a user. The same situation also happened to a user who owned the “@music” account.
These examples highlight how on traditional Web2 platforms, users can never truly own their identities or accounts, and in some cases, they can’t even voice their opinions. Web3 social platforms partially address this issue. Applications built on Web3 social protocols can still have some control over content, but users have complete autonomy and can choose to leave one application for another while retaining their data or even establish their own censorship-resistant application in the event of a complete failure. The core principle here is that users are not forced to be locked into a specific application—they can abandon a social application and move to a brand new one, taking all their data with them as long as they choose to.
The excitement of Web3 social platforms lies in the new experiences it brings to communities, businesses, composability, participation, ownership, and identity. It also addresses some of the core drawbacks of existing Web2 social platforms. A new way of building communities, making friends, and conducting transactions is just around the corner.
Equally exciting is the quality of entrepreneurs entering this field. In Superscrypt’s investment, Airstack, Collab.Land, Orb, Notifi, and Salsa are tackling various challenges of Web3 social in terms of accessibility, user experience, and interoperability.
Bringing Web3 social to the masses is a long road ahead – the technology and applications are growing, but still in the early stages. Before achieving a true alignment between products and the market, we look forward to more iterations and will soon share more updates with everyone.