A new generation of social applications
The ‘social’ element of social media has always been more about people than code. We want to interact with people we care about, we want insights into the lives of people we’re interested in, and perhaps we even want to cultivate our own online profile and image.
Now, a new generation of apps are promising new ways for this social content to be created, stored, indexed, curated, and sold. Based on web3 technologies, they envision new ways in which we’ll live out our online lives. Many offer the comforts of popular web2 social media apps - posts, likes, sharing and followers - and often use similar aesthetics and features that make it simple for new users to pick up and experiment.
For now, these new web3 apps and protocols exist at various points on the spectra of decentralization, composability, and financialization. However, they all offer users three key experiences that set them apart from their web2 counterparts and define what ‘web3 social’ will offer to us all.
Experience #1 - Sign in with your web3 identity
This is not your grandmother’s Facebook account. It’s also much more than getting a Metamask pop up and clicking ‘Sign’. In web2 social apps, signing in with your account gives you access to create and interact with content from a specific identity. In web3 you are connecting your social identity to all of the value you create and consume online.
Web2 social media is infamous for its fake depictions of glamorous lifestyles and contrived moments. Web3 introduces new concepts like provable digital ownership, blockchain-based reputation systems and verified credentials. These provide new layers of context which allow web3 users to communicate more authentically and verify the claims of others.
Some web2 platforms have dabbled in this (think NFTs on Instagram), but only in carefully selected niches and on the platforms’ terms. As web3 concepts like verified credentials become reality and give users more granular control over the data they share, there will be increasing ways to curate our online identities - from displaying our memberships and our assets, to sharing community contributions and connections. Making the connection between your wallet address or web3 identity and your social activity unlocks a future that’s more open, more composable and more authentic.
Experience #2 - Make the switch between social platforms
The experience of leaving one social platform and joining another is today one of a ‘fresh start’. Each time you must start with a clean slate. Perhaps you’ll use a recognizable username that carries some sort of reputation, but you must leave all your content, your connections, and your history behind.
The giants of web2 social media don’t want you to take your attention elsewhere. For their business model to work they need you where they can show you ads and extract useful data from your online activity. They accomplish this by holding your experience hostage, knowing you can’t simply switch to a different app and experience the same content, interact with the same connections or leverage the same profile. What if you could?
This is such a paradigm shift that it almost has to be experienced to be understood. Imagine downloading a different app because you prefer its interface or it has a unique feature, and having instant access to your profile and connections. You can continue to engage with your friends without skipping a beat, regardless of what app they chose for themselves.
I liken this shift to a transition from two-dimensional walled cities to three-dimensional planets. At the heart of each planet is a rich core of data. Users are free to roam across a boundary-less surface and drill down into this shared data resource from wherever and for whatever reason they choose.
This dynamic may give rise to a new generation of ‘social nomads’ who continually move onto new applications and maintain a library of different apps for different social use cases. Web3 social drives switching costs to zero, and the impact of this on the user experience, as well as how future apps will attract and retain users, is only just being explored.
Experience #3 - Take Everything With You
Web3 forces some tough debate when it comes to censorship, content moderation, and community management. For a protocol to be legitimately considered as part of the web3 social movement, it needs to be as open as possible.
The average web3 user is probably still more likely to simply walk away and start afresh if their account is restricted or blocked, but web3 opens the possibility of direct interactions with smart contracts, or creating their own alternate front end. The existence of these alternative options fundamentally changes the dynamic between apps and their users.
This openness goes hand-in-hand with the ability to migrate content, profile features and followers across apps and between front-ends. A ‘de-platformed’ YouTuber is forced to start anew. They may be able to upload all of the same content elsewhere, but their data, comments, subscribers (in essence the very heart and identity of their community) are lost. The beauty of building on the surface of a web3 social planet rather than a web2 walled city is the ability to simply migrate and reconnect from a new location, and no one is able to stop you. Again, this opens essential new conversations on social legislation and optimum moderation.
Where to find web3 social experiences today
Web3 social is a new movement, in large part driven by the creation of new technologies called social protocols. These provide the infrastructure needed for web3 social ownership, content sharing and connection - the web3 social planet beneath the new generation of applications.
Orbis Protocol, the web3 social protocol built for developers, is one of these solutions. It’s the foundation for a rapidly growing web3 ecosystem of applications and social features. And it’s the perfect place to get your first taste of the web3 social experience.
Sign into https://app.orbis.club to see the features available via Orbis Protocol. This link takes you to the Orbis Club App, which showcases the experiences available in the protocol. It’s also home to an active community of developers building the future of web3 social.
The open-source nature and composability of web3 social protocols like Orbis are already adding a new dimension to the social media user experience.This will enrich over time as users migrate their connections and attention to these fairer, more open social platforms.
As a developer you can already start to use the Orbis SDK to build any decentralized social experience. The best place to start is our documentation: https://orbis.club/documentation.