Web3 social media

Web3 Social Media: Has It Lived Up To Its Promise As It Has Grown?

By Allen Taylor | Cryptocracy | 29 May 2024


When I first learned about Web3 social media in 2018, the list of platforms was shorter than a No. 2 pencil. Steemit was barely two years old, Hive hadn't forked yet, and Lens Protocol wasn't even a spark in its creator's eye. Today, there are a growing number of platforms and protocols promising to deliver content monetization nirvana, censorship-resistance paradise, and a virtual heaven of digital assets. But is this small ecosystem of high-tech enthusiasts too splintered for its own good?

I published my first book on this new social media phenomenon in 2022, just four years after creating my Steemit profile.

Cryptosocial

One year later, I published my second book Web3 Social.

Web3 Social Media

Both books include an appendix with a list of more than 100 different Web3 social media platforms and protocols that existed at the time. Since then, a few of them have disappeared and a ton more have appeared on the scene. I'd estimate that there are now more than 200 Web3 social media platforms and protocols, each with its own approach to creator monetization, censorship resistance, and digital asset and digital identity protection. The question, in my mind, is how far have we come since Steemit launched as the first Web3 social media platform with its own cryptocurrency?

 

Web3 Social Media Benefits

Just as in the early days of social media, the Web3 social media landscape is ever-changing. In the beginning, there were no dominant social media platforms. There were a few, like Six Degrees and Friendster, that led the way into a new kind of Web, but none of them were monolithic. MySpace was the first social media platform to achieve any level of popularity internationally, and its primary focus was on popular music. Facebook launched in 2004, a full seven years after the pioneering Six Degrees, but it would not surpass MySpace as the social media platform with the most users until mid-2008. Since then, Facebook has only grown bigger.

Web3 social media

According to SEMRush, as of March 2024, 8 of the top 10 most visited websites in the world are social media platforms. However, none of them are Web3 social media platforms.

That begs the question: What is the difference between a Web3 social media platform and a legacy social media platform like Facebook and YouTube? Web3 platforms tend to focus on unique features and benefits that set them apart from those that came before. These include:

  • Decentralization - Largely a buzzword, decentralized social media platforms utilize distributed technology to create a network of computer nodes hosting the software that runs the platform. In many cases, the human layer of the organizations is not decentralized.

  • Censorship resistance - Another key feature of the platforms is that they promise censorship resistance, which isn't to say they are completely censorship-free. It does mean that platforms are more liberal regarding the type of content allowed on the platforms.

  • Self-sovereign accounts - Users do not generally have to pass a litmus test to join the platform and are in complete control over their own login keys and passwords. In many cases, the platform itself doesn't have access to passwords and keys, which means if a user loses them, they are locked out of their accounts.

  • Greater transparency - Because information and transactions on the platforms are generally open and available for all to see, platforms are more transparent regarding the data they collect on users and how it is used.

  • Content monetization - Platforms allow users to monetize their content in creative ways that legacy social media platforms do not offer.

 

While there are other benefits to Web3 social media platforms, these are the most often cited benefits. In essence, most Web3 social media platforms aspire to the key benefits offered by Steemit many years ago, but there are varying degrees of success when it comes to how well the platforms deliver those benefits.

 

The Changing Landscape of Web3 Social Media

Since I've published Web3 Social: How Creators Are Changing Social Media (And You Can Too!), many other platforms have joined the Web3 Social Media ecosystem. I listed more than 100 platforms in the appendix, but I've recently done some reading and have discovered other platforms that have launched since I wrote the book or that didn't make it on my list. Here are a few of the sites I've been reading that list a few Web3 social media sites not yet on my list.

  • DappRadar lists Friend.Tech, Galxe, Playbux, CyberConnect, LunarCrush, Huddln, Chingari, Post.Tech, and Damus. On the flipside, it does list several that are on my list, such as Steemit, Mastodon, Liketu, Vimm, and BlueSky. The platform they didn't list, which is a fork off Steemit, is Hive. According to DappRadar, Web3 social media unique active wallets increased 518 percent between 2022 and 2023.

Dappradar

  • ColdChain on Medium lists Gab and PixelFed. The other 8 of its top 10 list are included among my list in both Cryptosocial and Web3 Social. Initially, I didn't consider Gab a decentralized social media platform, but given that it is a fork from Mastodon, it makes sense to include it. However, it's important to note that it isn't built on a blockchain and therefore is not censorship-resistant nor does it offer monetization incentives for users. ColdChain includes Hive on its list.

  • Alchemy has a unique list that includes Paragraph, the host of this newsletter; Farcaster, which launched after Web Social's publication; Emojam; Continuum; Showtime; Fountain GmbH; Islands; Context; Arcade2Earn; Orb; Entre; DSCVR; Status.IM; Revel; RARA; Lenstube; NF.td; Launchcaster; and many more. Alchemy has a list of 78 Web3 social media dapps. Most of them are not on my list of 100, and most of my list of 100 is not on Alchemy's list. This discrepancy can be explained in two ways. First, which platforms appear on any list may have a lot to do with how the list organizer defines social media. Second, on any list, there will naturally appear a bias of some sort. My list is toward platforms that are decentralized and blockchain-based. Interestingly, neither Steemit nor Hive appear on Alchemy's list.

  • CMO Intern has an Ultimate Guide to Web3 social media platforms that is far from "ultimate". There are only 7 platforms on its list, which includes DiamondApp and Audius as the only two not already mentioned.

    What these four resources reveal is that the Web3 social media landscape is ever-changing. It also shows that different sources will define Web3 social media differently. I didn't test every site mentioned in each of these sources to find out if any of the platforms mentioned are defunct. All four lists were updated in 2024, so they should be up-to-date. That doesn't mean they are.

    While the number of platforms has grown a great deal since 2022, and undoubtedly the number of users, I think it's safe to say that the number of users playing on these platforms today is distributed far and wide among them that it will be some time before any one of the platforms dominates. With each new launch, a team of developers (and often, a few venture capitalists) promise to have in their hands the platform that will revolutionize social media. But ... so far, that hasn't happened. Almost all of them have been duds.

    The ones with the most potential may surprise you. Farcaster, which recently raised $150 million, is decentralized but offers no monetization incentives. Hive is more decentralized than any I've seen but has some UX issues, a problem that is all too common in the space.

    What is just as interesting as the new launches are the mergers and fall-offs. Since publishing Web3 Social, Paragraph has bought Mirror and Coil has sunsetted its protocol. Mirror is arguably the leading Web3 social platform and will be a huge boon to Paragraph, which continues to innovate and add new features. Coil was the best thing going until its founder decided to close the protocol. I'm hoping that something will come along to replace it as a protocol that allows Web publishers the ability to monetize their content on their Web properties.

    Where Web3 social media is headed from here is anybody's guess. As the ecosystem continues to grow and expand, more people learn about the benefits. At some point, we may reach a point of diminishing returns. Platforms will merge and the most promising will rise to the top of the pile, but it may be a long wait before we see one rise to the prominence that YouTube and Facebook enjoy among legacy social media. It may not happen at all as crypto-monetized social media could remain a niche ecosystem with not much to offer pop media culture. After all, its only advocates seem to be inward-focused on solving problems most of the Web hasn't discovered yet or doesn't care about.

     

    This post was originally published by Author Allen Taylor at Paragraph where it can be collected and where you can gain access to the most up-to-date and comprehensive list of Web3 and decentralized social media platforms and protocols. Lead image from Pexels.

 

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Allen Taylor
Allen Taylor Verified Member

Writer, editor, publisher. Content strategist for fintech, blockchain, and crypto firms.


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