Many social media users still see what current social networking service providers give now as basic necessities in our digital age. They see a fair balance in the arrangement between them and the service provider even when they are being seen as unpaid laborers – free content creators whose behaviors can be recorded and measured and the data generated sold out to corporations.
These corporations maintain extensive databases that typify users’ behavior in an attempt to exploit the content they create and the networks they have built with friends and family. They tap into users’ deeply human need to socialize with no respect for their privacy or psychological well-being, to turn your life into an endless marketing opportunity.
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The plot is made easier by users attaching little or no value to their attention. In fact, most users do not know how networks should recognize and appreciate their attention. They assume that social media is “free” because they do not pay for it directly. Whereas, they are the product.
The vast majority of the popular social media services run on centralized architecture, where the third party service provider grants privileges to the end users to use its service either as a paid for or in exchange for viewing advertisements on the platform.
Majority of Facebook Inc (FB) users, for example, do not have a clue how they are being the product; how Facebook Inc (FB) rents out users’ time and eyes to couple of business or advertisers.
Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR)’s Advertising Revenue
Surpassing estimates in its Q1 2016 earnings, Facebook Inc (FB) reported $5.38 billion in revenue and $0.77 earnings per share. This grand economy relies on the users of the social network in its entirety but they do not share in its gains.
Facebook Inc (FB) earned 3.85 billion USD in the last quarter of 2014, followed by Twitter Inc (TWTR) with 479m USD.
According to eMarketer, the average Facebook Inc (FB) user now generates $12.76 in advertising revenue every year up from $10.03. That figure is expected to rise to $17.50 by 2017 as it is adding new people to its network and making more money off each user at the same time.
The value created on these networks which turns out to be profit for Facebook Inc (FB), Twitter Inc (TWTR), etc comes directly from their users. Facebook Inc (FB) recently acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion paying 42 dollars per user. Similarly, the value of Facebook Inc (FB) and Twitter Inc (TWTR) users is often calculated through their market cap – currently at 141 and and 81.5 dollars, respectively.
Generally, social media platforms have risen to become a major force on the Internet over the past decade. As two-thirds of all Internet users are using these platforms, with 1 out of every 5 page-views occurring on Facebook Inc (FB) alone, and with many directly equating social media with Internet.
These and other reasons have created a need for decentralized social media platforms like Steemit, Diaspora, AKASHA, Synereo and others to exist.
Decentralization is redistributing functions or powers away from a central location or authority.
In a decentralized network, users can store profiles on a server of their choice, rather than a centralized system like Facebook Inc (FB) that stores everyone’s accounts for them.
It promises a direct opposite to the current social media understanding that most users have today. Users can do virtually all they want their own way in a decentralized system – switch platform, control access and spread of personal or other information online and even earn tokens for their content.
In her talk, Polish-German politician Katharina Nocun emphasised the role of monopolies in centralised social media and the importance of creating a competitive environment. She added that new decentralised social media initiatives are introducing competition as an engine for improvement in the social media market.
Decentralized social media are extremely useful for those who find themselves living in communication-restricted countries that cannot access non-decentralized social networks. Due to the underlying technological nature of the protocol that powers these platforms, it would be impossible to restrict access to it or take it down just like with Bitcoin.
Diaspora describes itself as “privacy-aware, decentralized social network which puts users in control of their data security” while Ethereum-powered AKASHA has been motivated by its creators’ belief that “freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy are fundamental human rights that should be respected on the Internet as well as in real life.”
Synereo, whose alpha release is slated for September, will test its automated, trustless interactions over the network for users to build systems that do not require concentrated power to maintain order.
With the power spread throughout the network and is left in the hands of the active participants in it – the users, decentralized systems will usher in the start of a social media era that could be a plausible choice for users.
Aside enabling users to connect directly to one another via secure cryptographic channels that prevent eavesdropping without their consent, they can also exchange services and value, share and collaborate without anyone in their way. Isn’t that what we all need?