Decentralized blogging with Blogchain
As a writer myself, I'm always intrigued to learn more about blockchain-based blogging platforms. When I started my journey over four years ago, medium seemed a perfect choice, and also — the person who had asked me to contribute to their publication was on medium.
Interestingly enough, none of my medium posts directly made me money. Many, I've just written for fun and to educate myself (and hopefully others). Of course, I also wrote for companies' publications during my employment with them. But I never tried the earnings option on medium, and I don't think I will.
Nevertheless, while I'm not directly reliant on generating cash flow through my musings, other creators are. And it's not just those writers sharing their thoughts about life we should think about; it's also journalists worldwide.
Blockchain has enormous potential to improve upon existing publishing and content-sharing mechanisms. I think it's worth exploring a little how decentralization benefits writing online and publishing before talking about Blogchain.
Current issues for journalists and writers
While the digital age is also considered the golden age of journalism because it enabled journalists to cast wider nets of data and collaborate across borders, the advent of advertising has hurt not only news outlets but, arguably, societies more broadly.
Instead of relying on cash flow generated through users buying the newspaper, nowadays, media outlets rely on advertising revenue. Unfortunately, this sparked a race to the bottom because everyone tries to grab as much attention as possible — without necessarily considering the broader consequences this might have on trust in media as an institution.
I'll dedicate an entire article to the topic of advertising's negative impact on society, so I'll keep it to this here 😏
Another issue on top of writing to grab most attention vs. actual important news is that censorship is increasingly felt by journalists all around the world. Many countries outright will shut down publishing companies when they share regime-critical coverage; some go further than that, imprisoning journalists. According to a survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists, in 2021 alone, 293 reporters were jailed, and 24 were killed.
Let's face it. If you're trying to make it as an independent writer, monetization can be your biggest challenge. If you start plastering ads all over your content, you risk alienating your audience; no one really wants to be sold to (except if it's cute duck or cat lamps, then I'm all in 😸) And paywalls can be challenging as well because they require people to pay up-front. Any of the web2 ways to monetize come with trade-offs that include having to reach minimum payout amounts (for platforms like AdSense) or waiting long for any cash to get your way.
And then, depending on what you write about, there's always a lingering risk of the platform you have garnered your audience on might simply shut you down.
Problems there are many. Fortunately, we have amazing technology and visionary companies looking to address them. Among them is Capsule Social with their platform for writers called: Blogchain.
Capsule Social was founded in 2021 by Nadim Kobeissi, a Paris-based cryptographer whose idea of building a decentralized blogging and social platform attracted $100k in investment within the first 24 hours of tweeting about it. Ultimately, the company raised $2.6 million to build Blogchain from top-tier investors such as the crypto fund of Polychain.
“We built Blogchain because we believe that freedom of thought and broad intellectual discourse should be the norm, not the exception.”
— Nadim Kobeissi
Blogchain is a publishing platform with protections for free speech unmatched in traditional media. It runs entirely on the NEAR blockchain
Instead of relying on centralized server as traditional hosting and blogging platforms do, Blogchain is serverless, running entirely on OrbitDB/IPFS. IPFS stands for interplanetary file system and is a peer-to-peer network for storing and sharing data anyone can tap into.
A huge benefit of that architecture is that it’s more resilient to downtime, and importantly to censorship.
Blogchain is transparent, and shows users content based on their objective user-preferences, not according to an algorithm trying to maximize your time on-site.
The team has taken a strong stance again selling ads, because that’s what led to the downfall of the big tech.
One can sign up to Blogchain fairly easily with Discord, Google or a NEAR wallet. Latter is probably the best option if you don’t want a centralized provider to know that you are using it. Once signed-up and logged in, you’ll be greeted with the home screen.
A beautiful, no-nonsense interface that shows recent articles, tags, and drafts (if you have them). One can read directly from the feed or discover new content and authors through the discover section. Current categories include technology, crypto, politics, and culture.
You can customize your profile to your liking — be anon or not — and even reshare or quote-post others stories on your own feed. A functionality that's really cool.
All content created is stored on IPFS. If you visit any one article, you’ll find an IPFS link at its bottom. This serves to store articles more permanently, and mitigates the risks of them being censored.
Overall, I think the interface is neat, and the design, I love it. Especially the beautiful illustrations. It’s also nice that one can customize the “landing” page for oneself to either show the editor — probably to hit you with that writers’ block from the start 😆 — or the feed.
In terms of actually writing on Blogchain, the editor has everything an editor needs (I suspect it’s markdown) including easy ability to create lists, quotes, assign headlines, and add images.
I haven’t been able to find too much about the the governance function of Blogchain, which is mentioned as a way to moderate the platform (I’d imagine that can be useful when it comes to fake news), and the actual technical architecture.
Nevertheless, overall I think it’s a great platform, with a superior UX to many other blockchain platforms. I hope that more people will start running nodes though, as the maximum I’ve seen so far is 5 and that seems a bit low for an architecture that’s supposed to withstand censorship.