8 of the Best Social Networking Sites that Are Decentralized and Blockchain-Based

Decentralized Blockchain Social Media Feature

Major social networking services like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all completely centralized – they store all the data, can change the user experience at will, and are in charge of everything that happens on their platforms. That has pretty clear implications for things like privacy, censorship, and moderation, and concerns over these and other issues have sparked calls for the platforms themselves to change the way they operate. If that happens at all, though, it’ll likely happen slowly, which is why there are a growing number of new decentralized and blockchain-based social networks vying to be private, secure solutions to our social media needs.

What Is “Decentralized” and “Blockchain-Based”

There are many different approaches to decentralization, but the core idea is that instead of a system being hosted and run by a single authority, it’s operated by a combination of people, machines, and algorithms spread across many different points. The essential problem is figuring out a way to get people all over the world to collaboratively run an algorithmically-governed system, without any one of them having the power to change it or take it down.

This idea clicks naturally with the concepts behind blockchains and cryptocurrencies, but “decentralized” and “blockchain-based” don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. A blockchain-based system, often called a Dapp (Decentralized app), typically works by storing data and code on a blockchain and using tokens to incentivize operation and participation without a middleman. This can be decentralized to varying degrees.

The following are some of the social media sites that are decentralized and/or blockchain-based.

1. Steemit

Most similar to: Reddit/Medium
Decentralized: Decentralized back end, centralized front end
Blockchain-based: Yes

Decentralized Blockchain Steemit

Steemit is a blockchain-based content creation and curation platform, which essentially means that every piece of activity on the site (not decentralized) is recorded on a blockchain (which is decentralized). That includes user accounts, text content, upvotes, and other information that would generally be stored in a database. As long as people keep running the blockchain, that content can’t be deleted.

The incentives for running the blockchain, posting, and voting come from the Steem token (and its partner tokens: Steem Power and Steem Dollars) which is distributed to people who create popular content and those who help curate it. Steemit has also built a blockchain-based reputation management system and a whole raft of other interesting features, and it’s actually been working quite well! Steemit has a robust community (heavily skewed towards crypto enthusiasts) and has paid out over $22 million USD to its users so far.

2. Diaspora

Most similar to: Twitter/Facebook
Decentralized: Yes, using independently-run servers (part of the Fediverse)
Blockchain-based: No

Decentralized Blockchain Social Diaspora

Having started in 2010, Diaspora is one of the oldest alternative social networks out there. The core component of its decentralization is its “pod” model, with each pod being a server run by someone who supports the project. When you sign up, you’ll have to choose one of these pods to store your data, but it doesn’t limit you to only interacting with that pod – they’re all connected to form one big network.

Different pods have different policies, strengths, and weaknesses: some might have strong privacy protections, some might allow cross-posting to other social networks, some might have stellar uptime, some might be geared towards specific groups, etc. Regardless, you own your data and can export and delete it from the server at any time. (The feature to move it over to a different pod is still in the works.)

3. Mastodon

Most similar to: Twitter
Decentralized: Yes, using independently-run servers (part of the Fediverse)
Blockchain-based: No

Decentralized Blockchain Social Mastodon

If you’re looking for another Twitter, Mastodon is your best bet. Like Diaspora, anyone who wants to can start running a server, and there are quite a few of those now. Each one will have its own privacy policy and content rules, and many of them are actively moderated to maintain community standards. Most of them are also associated with some sort of interest group or language, so you actually do have to do some research before joining, just so you can make sure you’re not accidentally joining a Croatian Game of Thrones fan club.

You can toggle between only seeing feeds from the server you joined (Local) or what all of Mastodon is doing (Federated). This basically makes it a platform where people can create their own social networks, which makes Mastodon a convenient place for connecting small communities.

4. DTube

Most similar to: YouTube
Decentralized: Yes, using IPFS and Steem
Blockchain-based: Yes

Decentralized Blockchain Social Dtube

YouTube is the undisputed king of online video, but in terms of functionality, DTube really isn’t lagging far behind. It’s decentralized using something called the IPFS (Interplanetary File System), which essentially combines many different machines into a single file system that can store and serve up files. This storage system is combined with the Steem blockchain, which stores the links to the IPFS video files and dispenses rewards to creators and commenters (though only for seven days after publication). It’s quite active and the system actually works very smoothly; performance doesn’t seem to suffer from the decentralization.

5. Sociall

Most similar to: Facebook/Twitter
Decentralized: In the future
Blockchain-based: Has cryptocurrency

Decentralized Blockchain Sociall

First, a disclaimer: Sociall’s beta is not currently decentralized or blockchain-based. They plan on decentralizing it using the IPFS protocol (like DTube, mentioned above), though, and their SCL cryptocurrency is currently functional, as is their open beta, which is quite sleek and impressive from a user standpoint. The “migrate from Facebook” feature doesn’t currently do much more than fill out a few fields for you and grab your last fifty timeline posts, but it could easily become a big selling point if it becomes capable of doing more. It already has Android and iOS apps, and the interface is intuitive (if sparsely populated).

6. Minds

Most similar to: Facebook
Decentralized: In the future
Blockchain-based: Possibly in the future

google-plus-alternatives-minds

Minds comes up often in conversations about decentralized social networks but, like Sociall, still has some centralized aspects. The team is working on it, though, and in the meantime, their open-source code and transparent policies have won them quite a bit of recognition. Users on the platform can maintain full control over their personal data, earn and spend cryptocurrency tokens, and say (almost) anything they want.

Minds is a usable and fairly active platform committed to giving power back to users, and it’s worth watching as they move toward full decentralization.

7. Manyverse

Most similar to: Facebook
Decentralized: Yes
Blockchain-based:
No

Decentralized Blockchain Social Networks Manyverse

It’s still very much an app in beta (Android only for now), but Manyverse is being actively developed and is one of the easiest ways to use the Scuttlebutt protocol – a peer-to-peer, encrypted way to sync and store data. Essentially, apps that use Scuttlebutt store user data locally and can share copies of that data with other people over the Internet, Bluetooth, or anything else that enables connectivity. This means Manyverse can work “off the grid” and is interoperable with a lot of other apps that are built on this Scuttlebutt network.

8. Sapien

Most similar to: Reddit/Medium/Twitter
Decentralized: On the roadmap
Blockchain-based: Partially

Decentralized Blockchain Sapien

Sapien bills itself as a social news platform for Web 3.0 (the decentralized web), with a heavy emphasis on fighting fake news through reputation management on the blockchain. It’s not yet decentralized, but their development team is actively working toward that goal. The beta is currently functional and already starting to incorporate some interesting features, though it has a ways to go before it’s a really smooth experience.

Services to Watch/Honorable Mentions

Voice

Decentralized Blockchain Social Voice

Block.One, the company behind this blockchain-based, transparent Facebook/Twitter/Medium mashup paid $30 million USD for Voice.com so it could host the EOS-based social networking service. They don’t have a beta yet, but this may be one to watch; they seem to mean business.

Iris

Decentralized Blockchain Social Networks Iris

Created by an early Bitcoin developer, Iris is an in-the-works social network that will store all data on user devices and create a “web of trust” system among users as a way to moderate the network and prevent spam.

Friendica

Decentralized Blockchain Social Networks Friendica

It’s currently a small-scale Fediverse network but is being actively developed and isn’t difficult to use once you select a server and get past the sign-up process.

Will decentralized social media take off?

Currently, the most popular decentralized social networks are Steemit and Mastodon, both of which mostly attracts groups of people uniting around common interests – cryptocurrency in Steemit’s case, niche communities in Mastodon’s. This base of users may eventually cascade into more widespread adoption, but as with a lot of things in the tech world, there will need to be a lot of luck involved. There are some truly fantastic ideas and apps floating around right now, though, and while joining up now might not give you the Facebook replacement you’re looking for, you can at least grab your favorite username before someone else does.

3 comments

  1. I’ve been using Steem/Steemit for over 3 years. I was attracted by the decentralised aspect as well as the potential for rewards. Originally there was just the Steemit front end, but now there are several with some offering more features. There are also a few games built on it. I have made a bit from it and that paid for me to go to two of their conferences in Lisbon and Krakow. There are lots of crypto fans on there, but also musicians, artists, photographers and general bloggers/vloggers. The Steem coin has lost some value, but that makes it cheap to buy into it to give your account some influence. It can be like the wild west with people gaming the system, but the community acts to deal with a lot of this. The freedom to do as you like is part of the attraction for some as you cannot be censored even if your rewards are removed by downvotes.

    I have played with Mastodon, Minds and Disapora, but I do not have time to be active on those and I have made friends on Steem.

  2. “Will decentralized social media take off?”
    Considering the current preoccupation with all things block chain, yes, decentralized social media will take off. However, “decentralized” means that instead of being concentrating in one general area, any data harvested is spread all over the ‘Net and “blockchain” guarantees that this data cannot be ever deleted without braking the blockchain.

  3. I use steemit which is based on the STEEM blockchain and has hundreds of other apps running on it as well. With the new communities and tokenisation features coming out after xmas I think it will open up steemit.com and the STEEM blockchain to a wider audience. There is a lot to be said for owning and controlling your own content and community in these days of censorship and oversight. STEEM will be offering a solution to that with their new features which allow people to own their own data without fear of deletion. While content can be removed from the steemit website which is a publicly owned company, the content is always there on the blockchain and can still be accessed.

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