According to Joonatan Lintala, the co-founder and CEO of Phaver, the limited progress of the technology behind Web3 social media platforms is one of the reasons why prospective users are reluctant to try them out. Lintala also added that “none of the current generation Web3 protocols are yet ready to support multi-million user levels.”
The Advantages of a Web3 Social Media Platform
Lintala, however, told Bitcoin.com News that dozens of Web3 companies are currently working towards finding solutions to drive the adoption and embrace of blockchain-based social media platforms.
Meanwhile, Lintala said he sided with those asserting that Web3 social media can potentially overcome problems often seen with Web2 platforms. He said the fact that such Web3 platforms are based on “user-controlled interoperable profiles” will assure prospective users that their data will not be controlled by a few entities or used without their consent.
Also, in written answers to questions sent to him via Telegram, Lintala said in the future social media users will prioritize platforms that not only treat them as stakeholders but also those that value their privacy. He said failing to align a Web3 or Web2 social media platform with these priorities may result in the loss of users and ultimately revenues.
The CEO of Phaver, a platform bridging users to Web3 social networks, also shared his thoughts on the so-called Reddit fiasco and how a decentralized Reddit would have pre-empted this. Below are the CEO’s answers to the questions sent.
Bitcoin.com News (BCN): During his keynote speech at the recent Ethereum Community Conference (ETHCC), Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) partner Sriram Krishnan, who has worked at Meta and Twitter, argued that Web3 social media can fix a lot of problems found on Web2-based social platforms. Do you agree with the assertion?
Joonatan Lintala (JL): Most definitely. While it’s not a fix-all, just the premise of starting with user-controlled interoperable profiles alone means that nobody can, nor should, ever again yield uncontrolled power over people’s social lives and news consumption, even political discourse. Having fair competition with low barriers will also mean the next generation has to reward creators fairly, moderate ethically and transparently and listen to their users, or else someone else will build an alternative that does and users can migrate in a matter of seconds.
BCN: What would you say are some of the biggest headaches and challenges faced by users of Web2 social platforms today?
JL: While most users will not know the difference nor attribute these to a platform’s centralization model, the issues become most tangible when you or someone you know gets banned from any Web2 app which often results in wiping a decade of memories and relationships with no path to recovery. This actually happened even to my grandmother when she accidentally changed her age to 12 in settings. She got booted out of Facebook and Instagram mid-pandemic with recurring refusal to be let back in.
Furthermore, the lack of control over what you see, how many ads you receive and where they get their highly invasive targeting data are issues even the U.S. Congress has been recently alerted to.
BCN: The recent Reddit fiasco is said to have angered moderators on the platform. Can you tell us what it was all about and what the platform should have done to demonstrate fairness?
JL: In a nutshell, Reddit reminded their users who’s the boss by killing the fan-favourite community app Apollo and infuriating millions of power users and moderators who had enjoyed their superior user experience. This not only became the next sad chapter in the saga of social apps screwing over their closest API partners without warning, just like Twitter did post-Elon to theirs, but also ended up with union-busting moves from the leadership.
If Reddit was built on Web3 rails this would not have happened in the first place as the data Apollo and others relied on would be on-chain and open, but furthermore, if a Web3 app would strong-arm their most loyal users by threatening banishment when protesting, they would very quickly become a ghost town. Of course, the fair option regardless of your power imbalance would be to treat your users as stakeholders, not data sources, which sadly has not been seen in Web2 so far.
BCN: A fair and transparent social media platform — whether it’s Web2 or Web3 — needs to ensure that the platform’s interests are aligned with those of the users. Can you explain to our readers how this can be done particularly when the platform relies on advertising revenue?
JL: The key here is to treat your users as stakeholders and acknowledge that at least in the next generation of social media they actually have alternatives. While advertising will still remain an important monetization tool, it’s far from the only one, and users can in a decentralized world choose the type of platform that suits their preferences. For free and polished experiences ads are the way to go, for more private options open-source apps will be your choice and finally, the ultimate convenience and privacy will likely come with a monthly price tag.
Phaver actually aims to combine all 3 in a model where users can pay to avoid ads entirely, see ethically targeted ads for a free experience, or even get subsidized themselves if they help achieve more accurate targeting and attribution by opting in. Equally important will be the model that ensures the creators are fairly compensated for their work regardless, and the in-app economy is fair to the users as much as possible.
BCN: Your company Phaver is said to use proprietary off-chain posting for flexibility and ease of use. Can you tell us the upside and downside of off-chain posting?
JL: The upside and downside of that is that it is just as easy as Web2 apps because it actually is one. We look at the phase of development in a very pragmatic way and it’s clear we are not yet ready for mainstream adoption of fully on-chain social media, from user experience nor from the infrastructure scalability side. This means for Phaver that our gateway to Web3 is actually in Web2, and then bit by bit moves your experience on-chain with Lens and Cyberconnect profiles backing everything up to blockchain and NFTs improving your credibility and status. In the long run, all this will be more or less on-chain but for now, we are in the era where Netflix still rented mail-in DVDs.
BCN: It is said that each social media platform taps into one of the so-called seven deadly sins. For instance, Twitter is said to amplify content that triggers outrage while Instagram is known to tap into envy or things like that. Do you believe the Web3 social media platforms could be different in this regard and if so, how?
JL: Web3 as such will not make social media use any less sinful, but what I believe may do is that the same content can be accessed by numerous different apps and each one makes their own choices around algos, moderation and general altruism of their actions. This will hopefully mean we will see more wholesome alternatives to Insta built to index content in a new way, less toxic Twitters that moderate and deprioritize angry rants and maybe even a TikTok alternative where we don’t have to worry about possible Chinese government influence to our feed sorting.
BCN: Web2 social media platforms are often accused of misusing their power, and there are fears that Web3 platforms could eventually behave the same way when they become widely adopted. As a blockchain-powered social network, what mechanisms does Phaver have in place to assure users that it will always maintain high ethical standards?
JL: I have often been jokingly asked if I hope to become the next Zuckerberg, to which I always reply that my mission is to ensure nobody will. This is ensured by, as Chris Dixon put it, ensuring that “don’t be evil” becomes “can’t be evil” when social graphs are built on publicly audited smart contracts and things like algorithms and monetization are divided among numerous entrants all tapping into the same raw data.
For Phaver we take this one step further with the first company value drafted upon foundation, net positive impact. This means we’re not okay with just not being evil, we believe social media can and should be rebuilt from the ground up to be for the people, not for monetizing the people and this can actually have a massive impact around the world. The key safeguard here is that by integrating Lens protocol as the first app ever, we gave the keys back to the users and whatever we build needs to retain the users voluntarily in a fiercely competitive environment, which means we have no choice but to obsess over the best and fairest social solution out there if we want a chance to succeed.
BCN: In your opinion, what is holding back prospective users from trying out Web3 social media?
JL: Currently, this is limited almost entirely by the progress of technology. None of the current generation Web3 protocols are yet ready to support multi-million user levels nor are their onboarding mechanisms yet ready for mainstream adoption. The great thing about Web3 is though, that there are dozens of companies working together on every little piece of this equation and they all naturally fit together. This means that by the end of next year, we expect a new user can create their first crypto wallet with one partner upon signup, then enjoy the Phaver user experience like any other social app while smoothly proving they’re real with a decentralized ID token, buying a cool unique profile pic from an NFT marketplace, and most importantly, unlock a whole ecosystem of apps that play together nicely and each has all of your information automatically filled from your new wallet.
BCN: The debate about the ethics of data usage appears to have, at least to some extent, eroded users’ trust in traditional social media platforms. What are the key lessons that Web3 social platforms can learn from such incidents?
JL: When the baseline data such as follows and posts are posted on the blockchain, that actually makes them public by default, which on the other hand can be scary but also levels the playing field and ensures that if you want to encrypt it you can and have to do so in a way that allows you to fully control who unlocks that piece of information, such as encrypted posts. Web3 as such, again, does not make your privacy any better, but it means the apps have more to lose if they invade your privacy or handle your data carelessly.
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