The June 1st event held by Block.One in Washington D.C has come and gone, and with the event came a host of exciting announcements for EOS, the Blockchain developed by Block.One, which is now a year old. At the event partnerships with Coinbase and Yubico, were announced, as was EOS VM, a scaling solution. Most importantly was Block.One’s social media dApp, Voice, which will be running on the EOS Blockchain. Of all the announcements, Voice will likely be the most relevant announcement to those of us who aren’t developers, although Yubico may stealthily end up being hugely important in the long run, since the security benefits should make investors feel safer when using crypto. So, today we’ll be discussing Voice.
Voice is the social media dApp that Block.One wants to break out of the crypto space and into the mainstream, to compete with giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Brenden Blumer stated in the keynote ‘Social media has not been a good friend to us’. It is widespread knowledge that the tech giants which run social media run on a business model that treats the user as the product, infringing upon user privacy and bombarding users with fake news, as well as censoring unpopular opinions whilst allowing fake accounts, scams, and harassment to run rampant. Voice is positioned to become a platform where the incentives of the platform and the user are aligned.
Voice offers two innovations which Block.One believes will combat these problems: Using authentication techniques that will limit one human to one account, and the Voice token. As of now, the details on Block.One’s authentication techniques are unclear, suffice to say that there could be some privacy concerns if anything approaching traditional KYC procedures are involved. Anonymity is the double-edged sword that makes the internet so scary yet so important. Furthering the privacy concerns, there is a strong likelihood that all the data you give to voice will be stored on the EOS blockchain indefinitely, forever remaining etched into a smart contract that Block.One themselves may not even be able to edit for all we know. With these posts tied to a real identity, it’s not too hard to imagine situations akin to the recent controversy surrounding James Gunn being fired from Disney over old tweets. From what we’ve seen so far, Voice appears to be offering no solution to this issue.
Social media forever cements the past in the present, making it difficult for people to forget when people have the former words from themselves and others forever kept at their fingertips. People have bad opinion sometimes, but the social media model makes it difficult to account for the fact that humans change their minds over time, and that as a society, being able to forget (and forgive, if you’re feeling up to it) is important. It’s for this reason that anonymity is also a key component that allows for truly free speech. By deanonymizing people and removing fake accounts, Voice becomes much more like the real world, where social pressures caution you to be more careful with your speech, and much less like the internet, where freedom of expression runs so wild that the darker sides of humanity that inevitably show themselves become too much for many people. Given Block.One’s stated goal of making crypto and blockchain more appealing to the masses, however, that Voice was designed this way hardly seems surprising. Rather than build a system where the platform owners can censor users and are incentivized to do so by advertisers, Voice has been designed so that users are incentivized to censor and fight with each other, without any need for Block.One to interfere with that process.
The Voice token is the primary mechanism through which Block.One hopes to achieve this. Unlike other crypto tokens, Voice will not be available for direct purchase. (more on that later) Instead, Voice is earned whenever another user likes your post, and you also earn it just from logging in daily (bearing in mind, one account per one human is the goal). Voice can then be used to bump up your post to the top of all user’s feeds (it’s unknown right now if there will be multiple topic categories with multiple feeds, but I would have to assume so) therefore giving your post visibility and thus the potential to accrue more likes and more voice. The catch is that whenever someone pays more voice than you did, they’ll be put to the top of the feed and you’ll be bumped down a peg below them. As compensation, the voice you used initially will be returned to you, plus you’ll have earned extra voice as further compensation for having used your voice in the first place, encouraging you to try again with a ‘louder’ voice than before, you might say. You don’t actually lose any Voice until your post gets bumped down again, but that’s fine because if your post is at the top, your message/art is out there and has enough visibility that it’ll gain likes if people, well, like what you have to say. In this manner common consensus will very quickly bury unpopular opinions, assuming no other variables. It’s also possible that unless there’s some timer which eventually ‘locks in’ the number of likes a post can receive and removes it from the main feed, that your post will always inevitably be bumped down by someone else’s. In which case, a post’s time in the limelight will be very short-lived, but you’ll still always be accumulating vast quantities of Voice the longer you simply exist on the platform.
While it doesn’t technically cost any voice to write posts, comment, or like posts, because using voice tokens is risk-free there’s essentially no reason why you shouldn’t be spending all of your voice tokens to bump up a post each and every time you post. Even if you don’t expect anyone to like the post, you can still expect someone else to bump your post down, thus you’ll have made a profit in tokens and will be able to reach a higher position next time you post. Unless there’s a ‘lock’ point after a certain time period, after which point you can’t get your tokens back after you’re bumped down, then it essentially doesn’t matter if people like your posts or not. Earning likes simply allows you to profit faster, but either way, you’ll always be profiting. Only the fear of social ostracisation on a scale much larger than Voice itself will incentivize you to be mindful about the quality/tastefulness of your posts. Even with a lock period, users should be able to spam the network with spam posts so that they can keep profiting as their posts are bumped down. Block.One has built the Voice platform without a dislike feature. This is a huge, huge mistake, as the dislike feature would allow the community to punish users who attempt to spam the network with junk content in order to abuse this loophole in the token economy. Steemit, Dan Larimer’s previous venture into the blockchain based social media landscape, suffered from the same issue of users posting junk content, albeit for different reasons.
On Steemit, the Steem token which runs the website was directly purchasable. Steem tokens could also be utilized to grant the account owner greater voting weight with their likes, and these likes would determine how much of a reward that post or comment received. In essence, while Steemit did operate on a one account, one vote model, some votes were more valuable than others. This allowed users with lots of money to purchase enough Steem tokens that they could dictate to which accounts the financial rewards were distributed. This lead to vote buying, which led to cartels. At this point, the whales at Steemit could print money for themselves, and the quality of their own content or that of other users was not relevant to this process in the slightest.
Voice does definitely seem to have solved one of the major problems that plagued Steemit. No matter how many voice tokens you have, you only have one like, and your like is worth the same as anyone else’s. Block.One claims that Voice tokens will only be earned through the three aforementioned processes: receiving likes, daily logins, and having your post be bumped down. However, it has also been confirmed on telegram that Voice tokens will absolutely be transferable between EOS accounts.
Even if Voice somehow receives no major exchange support, this fact means that a market will absolutely form around Voice tokens. It’ll have a value and it’ll be obtainable without having to engage with the Voice platform itself. This absolutely opens the door for the wealthy to accumulate enough voice that their message will be the only one that can be seen most of the time. It also opens the door for advertisers to gain a louder voice than the average user. It might depend on how effective the KYC process is, and how tolerant Block.One will be of accounts that are explicitly meant to represent companies.
I’m negative on Voice in this article largely because I like EOS, I like Block.One, and I think Dan Larimer and Brenden Blumer are well-intentioned. Even based on what little we know already, the model of Voice already seems like a large improvement on Steam, and if nothing else, it’ll make for a fun social experiment. However, I absolutely think Voice has the potential to make big waves and I’ll be excited to try the beta out. You can only speculate so much, after all. Voice can’t be the singular solution to all the problems caused by social media, but there’s still always room for improvement in what it is able to do.
You can sign up for the beta now on Voice.com, and you’ll get emailed when it’s opened.
Author: Alex from Token Valley
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the particular author. Token Valley is a dApp discovery platform seeking to bring together the dApp community in a transparent manner that encourages further growth in the space.