Twitter Hack: Renewed Call for Decentralized Social Media

With centralized applications like Twitter, Facebook or even the most recent TikTok, users can't rest assured there's no unfortunate incident brewing to explode any time soon.

By · Jul 18, 2020 . 15min read

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

Twitter’s recent hack shows how vulnerable even presumed tech giants can be and has sparked off the call for a decentralized social media option for users.

The discussion for a decentralized version of many social media applications out there surfaces once in a while. However, most of these conversations are nothing but short-lived. This is perhaps because of the influential grip; conventional social media has on people.

Twitter arguably one of the fastest sources of information in the world presently has 330 million monthly active users. Facebook, another giant boasts of more than 2 billion users across its slew of applications powering its ecosystem.

One of the strong USPs of most of these applications by Silicon Valley giants is its superior UI/UX. Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram users effortlessly whip up these applications, enjoying the comfort and utility they afford them. They do this without caring much about the backend technology powering these applications.

Superior design and engineering keeps users glued and wanting for more

If not for incidents like the Facebook – Cambridge Analytical scandal and other privacy-breaching events, most of these centralized platforms appear to have charmed their users. This charm, of course, is the deep thoughts and research these tech giants employ in the engineering and product design. And with the network effect factor, big tech companies continue to expand their userbase as well as raking in the billions in revenue. A quick look at the most valuable companies out there shows these indices. Tech companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft have dislodged the likes of GE and others from being the most valuable.

Sleekiness and ease of use is not enough, privacy is equally important

As sleek as most of these applications are and the ease with which users launch them, something of deeper concerns still exist. Twitter’s hack recently, Facebook sharing its users’ data without authorization, Apple controlling how dev should list apps on its store all demonstrate huge concerns.

One thing that is missing is user privacy. With centralized applications like Twitter, Facebook and even the most recent TikTok, users can’t rest assured there’s no unfortunate incident brewing to explode any time soon.

Decentralized networks and applications are by design immune to attacks

The July 15th event makes popular bitcoin and other decentralised technology advocates shouting the words: “You can’t hack Bitcoin but Twitter”. This helps those who may not understand how these things work to know where to point their accusing fingers.

Bitcoin is a decentralized protocol as well as Ethereum and other similar blockchains like EOS and Cosmos. These networks asides their most popular application which is cryptocurrencies and other financial applications can do more.

Blockchains support decentralized applications some of which includes social media dapps

Blockchain networks are veritable tools that can support Twitter-like applications and even others like Dtube, which is a decentralized version of its mainstream counterpart – YouTube.

The wider blockchain community is already spearheading bolder moves to compete with its Silicon Valley competition. Some of these projects include:

EOS-based Voice.com by Block One

Voice is a social media platform by Block One, the body behind the EOSIO protocol. Having raised about $4 billion during a year-long ICO to launch the EOS public blockchain, it has launched Voice.com. Voice uses Blockchain technology to create a trusted social experience, free from bots and fake accounts. It is big on user identity verification employing biometric authentication technology as it aims to limit account per person. And as a way to gain user confidence, it promises to protect user data as one of its strong ethics. The platform went live July this year and is seeing impressive reactions, especially from the EOS fan base. Whether it will attract strong usage and even go mainstream is still premature to speculate.

Algorand-based Props by YouNow

Props is a token-based rewards system for social network sites. Unlike Facebook with no incentive system, Props rewards its users with the platform’s native token. YouNow, a live-streaming site based in New York owns Props. Judging by YouNow’s record of a having up to 100 million users at some point, Props hopes to decentralize the social media experience for users and giving users back the control of their data.

Minds Social App

Minds is another popular decentralized social network that boasts of millions of monthly active users—established by Bill Ottman who started the project as far back 2011. Mind goal is giving its users a free, open-source and sustainable social network for them to use without any fear of censorship. Ottman claims himself and his CTO built Minds because of the abuse Facebook’s users face on the platform. Facebook has been accused of spying, data mining, algorithm manipulation, and no revenue sharing towards its users. Minds hope its users will experience differently as they come on their platform.

Peepeth

Peepeth is Twitter-like but built on Ethereum. It allows users data is to save their data directly on the Ethereum blockchain. By so doing, the data is open, decentralized, and immutable. This is a sharp contrast of what users experience on Twitter. This was brazenly demonstrated when the Twitter hackers hijacked and deleted tweets from people and entities like CZ of Binance and Apple.

User Experience, a major hurdle to cross before reaching mainstream

As beautiful and bold as some of these outlined projects look, many are lacking in the profound user experience their centralized counterparts afford users. Take, for instance, Peepeth, low in user threshold because users need funds, specifically Ether in their wallet. This is for connecting to the DApp to be able to tweet and have them saved on the Ethereum blockchain.

Some users are already voicing their displeasure for Voice just launched barely a month ago. While some claims Voice.com is nothing but a joke and shouldn’t be categorized as a decentralized application, others are calling the platform out for poor user experience reasons. A user pointed out saying:

Why is it that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are so popular and accessible, when something like Medium does not enjoy that level of success? The answer is simple: it’s because the former platforms are information-dense. That is, when you’re on these platforms you can do a relatively small amount of scrolling, browsing and clicking and get an enormous amount of information presented to you in an attractive and digestible way.

Justin Horatio Jenkins posted on Voice.com

With Facebook’s continued expansion and Twitter serving political figures like Donald Trump in his relentless use towards updating his over 80 million followers, will decentralised social media alternatives be able to compete with them or is it a just pipe dream? Time will tell.

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