Balajis on distributed social networks.

Censorship resistance feels more like an edge case today. Another way of thinking about it is in terms of digital property rights.

e.g. in the 2000, the deal from social networks was amazing because you’d get free distribution to everybody, hosting, content creation tools… Relative to the 1980 and 1990s when distribution was very scarce when being on TV was the biggest thing, now everyone is able to stream on YouTube, post on blogger, post on Facebook or what have you.

But as time went on, this has become the standard package and what has happened, is that rather than being neutral platforms, they have a huge thumb on the scale. Downgrading in search results, YouTube Adpocalypse… people don’t have a share in what they are creating and don’t have control over their digital presence, which become more and more important as it becomes a larger percentage of your life.

An interesting question to ask: What percentage of your waking hours a day do you spend in front of a computer. That is more than 50% for many people, specially information workers.

Most of your remaining life will be spent in the Matrix, and if you don’t have root over the Matrix (if you can just be locked in a box and all the doors are closed and money is taken away, and you’re silenced), that’s actually possible if somebody has root.

Against being totally powerless, the alternative is to have control and have economic rights. Control means private keys, and economics also means private keys. It's both the freedom and the prosperity. People focus on the freedom in the sense of censorship resistance, but is also the prosperity in the terms of digital property rights.

Crypto creators will be such much bigger than Internet influencers because they will get a much bigger cut on what they create. Millions of people are not getting a cut of what they create. When they do, they will share so much more of it, and it's going to be more useful because they’re going to do it in exchange for cryptocurrency and not simply likes, and It's and so on.

One should appreciate how hard it is to build centralized companies and also appreciate that it is very difficult to have something where you got a loop that has been optimized for being addictiveness for many people, and it’s dinging some much time and to having that compensated in some way.

One bad part would be that things can become too transactional. On balance though there’s some good to that too. But even that can be positive, given that some much in social media currently is empty posturing and some much is hostility. This is because it would incentivize people to behave more positively when there are more mechanisms for economic alignment instead of a zero-sum status. But that is clearly a negative. Also, when everything has a price, you’ll see a lot of things that you didn’t thing about as being priceable, like sentiment (memes, hashtags) so you’ll be able to trade against that.

On balance, it’s good to add some degree of scarcity to the mix here because otherwise it is hidden, and it only exists as root in someone's servers, so instead put that back into people’s hands.

The single most important field is crypto identity (ENS, Solana names, Orbit …). We’ll need another term other than “Connect Wallet”, as it sounds like it will drain your money, but that portable identity is way more important that people think because when identity becomes portable, backends become liquid. When you can log in to a new service as easily as you load a new webpage, that means that the ice blocks (Twitter DB, Facebook DB), those become liquid and can flow between platforms, potentially as easily as just clicking.

It's like the transaction with analog and digital cameras. Even though they were worse than its counterparts, they were more convenient, so they got used a lot and improved a lot.

One's Web3 identity hits that flipping, when it has millions of users, when series are build for that first (maybe around late 2030), then you can have for instance a crypto phone, and you have identity fundamentally with the private keys (all money, digital property), then digital exit becomes much more powerful because digital services need to fight for their bread because they don't have lock in.

The most scarce resources per decade:

  • 2000 - Bandwidth
  • 2010 - Attention
  • 2020 - Blockspace
  • 2030 - Loyalty

There needs to be Vampire attacks on web2 services like (Intagram, Twitter, Facebook). When tokens are integrated into social networks, they become more of a digital tribe.

In the west, people react with apathy and then panic.

The first web was the open web and Google could index that, it’s actually very difficult to do it, but it's possible with crawlers and so on (many technical difficulties in allocating the right bandwidth to each crawler and telling when should a side be recrawled - Cisco algorithms). Crawling is complicated because there are many formats, you’ve to do wrapper induction, it's a database populated page, how do you know you got all of it, how do you know you’re not breaking the web app when crawling it, etc.

The social web is even harder to index because it sits in Facebook's, Twitters… servers and they don’t want to let you index it. LinkedIn actually lost the “high five” case where scrappers can now in theory index LinkedIn, but they are still not making it easy. In theory, you can do a data export but really is not just data but also your identity and your connections - your social graph - as an individual (is your community, your subculture).

What people don’t get about blockchains is that up until this point they have been basically hosting financial data. It didn't look like web1 or web2 data, meaning HTML pages or social pages. But now it's starting to as blockspace increases (DeSo, Mirror, Capsule Social, orbit, …). Essentially you have decentralized storage of posts and identity and other kinds of things. This radically simplifies indexing. One simple proof is that everybody can set up something like btc.com or blockchain.com or blockchair.com (block explorer), and already billion dollar companies have been built as block explorers (ehterscan.com). Indexing is easier and therefore searching is also easier because instead of pinging the sites, and all the crawling complications, you get it all pushed directly to you with new blocks.

Now with people singing the content they create with the ens or other identities, you have digital signatures as a first class feature. That is huge, and they are open.

A big chunk of Google nowadays are actually queries for many recent events. They don't show all the historical stuff - hard to find it. That means that their index is highly biased towards open state platforms (because they’re less than 1 yo). A large fraction of Google will move to new clients. They are much more vulnerable than what people think because the whole scope of what they index and the difficulty of indexing it may just get transformed. This is a redefinition of the problem because search has just become easier, it has got more signals, Google doesn't have the core competency around it.

New kinds of social networks will be built, and many of them will invoke finance as a first class feature (because you can assume that every user has a balance). The backend change to a web3 social network is so challenging, that people might just do is to have almost exactly the same front end that we’re already accustomed to (client), and then put all the energy into innovating in the backend and making that actually work first.

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I'm an engineer building what's next