Although the sheer scope of its potential is unknown, blockchain’s potential ability to quash fake news, and promote quality, safe content is both intriguing and exciting.
Blockchain in 2018 is viewed in a similar way to that of the internet in the 90’s. People who aren’t in the industry will have heard of it, but it’s still just ‘on their radar’ – it’s not something that dominates after dinner conversation yet. But there is a growing sense that something important is bubbling away.
When most people hear blockchain, they think of digital currencies such as Bitcoin. And while yes, Bitcoin is the cryptocurrency associated with it, the real deal is the technology behind it – blockchain. That’s where the potential lies and could transform every institution—in some ways more than the internet did.
Blockchain will disrupt how we think about our data
We are all used to, and accept, that closed platforms like Facebook and Instagram control our digital content and make our departure from them pretty much impossible. What blockchain has the power to achieve is to return ownership of our personal data to us, giving back our control. Social platforms will be forced to simply connect rather than control.
Ethereum emerges as an early leader
There will, of course, be some barriers to early adoption. With industry standards yet to emerge and universally enforced, those that are willing to try out new blockchain platforms will need to show an amount of trust in them.
Ethereum is one of blockchain’s trailblazers and is supported by numerous high profile companies. Because blockchain platforms (like Ethereum) are new and many use their own proprietary programming language, the availability of specialised programmers has been limited.
But as we see these platforms grow and mature, with industry standards starting to form, this will all change.
The availability of both online and university courses continues to expand
The increasing demand for blockchain skills from various sectors makes blockchain an attractive subject and universities have begun to add the topic to their course lists.
Stamford, Cornell, and NYU, the University of Cumbria, Cyprus’ University of Nicosia, the University of Copenhagen are just a few to have embraced the desire to learn more about blockchain. And in the US you can even enrol at Blockchain University!
This will undoubtedly address the need for talent in this relatively new arena.
Advertisers and social influencers will benefit from the security of blockchain technology
Blockchain technology is incredibly secure, which means it will enable advertisers to store sensitive customer data safely. And as the data is spread across the network, it’s far less likely to be vulnerable to hackers. There are still limitations on the speed of transactions, but it’s expected to be only a matter of time before solutions are found.
As with individual users, blockchain technology will enable social influencers to regain control over their social data platforms, with the ability to post a branded message across many platforms at one time and therefore reach a far broader audience.
Tapping into the ‘Tech-Savvy’ demographic
By creating a self-sustaining ecosystem through the utilisation of smart contracts, tokens, and other incentives, brands can appeal to a different, younger and more ‘tech aware’ demographic that has grown up with social media at the fore.
Blockchain technology allows consumers to take control of the goods and services they enjoy and the platforms are able to grow based on user feedback and financial backing. It will also allow them to identify and tackle those who aim to troll or spam such forums with the sole aim of harming its reputation.
Identifying and Rewarding Value in Social Networks
We currently access social media on platforms with massive reach: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
These networks rely on ad-based business models, which means they get the lion’s share of any rewards. It’s a biased arena that sees the user – the main participator/contributor – unequally compensated for their content contribution.
By enabling the private ledger the Ethereum blockchain platform provides, companies will be able to track users’ interaction with specific content. They will then be able to quantify its value and possible compensation. But that’s a little way into the future!
Access to Content
In some countries, the government have the ability to block users from accessing specific social media sites. One company, DECENT, has developed an open-source protocol. The aim is to decentralise content and make it accessible to all by providing a distributed ledger. This means access to content cannot be blocked.
By purchasing a token, individuals can use it to pay for content from other users and also to publish their own content.
A barrier to success for blockchain-based social media adoption is the purchase of the tokens – consumers are used to free access to social media. However, it’s likely to be seen as a small price to pay in countries where access has been restricted.
Can blockchain resolve social media’s most annoying issue?
One very welcome plus point of blockchain is its ability to combat ‘fake news’. During the last US presidential election, we witnessed an upsurge in false content across social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The material was intended to influence voter emotions and opinions. The individual platforms have formed alliances with independent fact checkers in an attempt to put a stop to this issue.
But in fact, a solution that doesn’t require third-party partnerships is blockchain. By incentivising users to rank content correctly, a more accurate picture can be built around whether the material is in fact genuine. Userfeeds is one company leading the way in the use of this technology.
And to stem the tide of false videos (made possible by the improvements to AI and machine learning), new and innovative companies such as Prover, can use verification platforms, built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, to identify and discredit such videos.
Is 2018 to be the year we see widespread use of blockchain technology in social media?
With 2017 the year that brought awareness, 2018 is likely to be the year we see the more widespread use of blockchain as a secure digital ledger for anything of value, from money to information and more.
In-app currencies supported by blockchain technology can fundamentally restructure how users consume content socially.
The combination of blockchain technology and social networks will provide a more interactive and rewarding experience on social media; one that is not restricted by lack of trust. And fundamentally, one that is open to all.