Waves Protocol
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Waves Protocol

Blockchain-based Messaging and Social Media

Currently, almost all IT technologies out there are going through a phase of extensive development, but it’s the companies (predominantly large ones) who decide the type of product you will be using in the end. The matter in question is their quality and ease of use: do they really offer user-friendly solutions or are they just trying to take over the market (or simply maintaining their existing position in it), without leaving any alternatives for the end users and customers?

This applies to any phenomenon, whether artificial intelligence , social media or messaging. Today we can’t imagine our lives without online social activities, even though there have been modest yet notable protests against social networks changing their guidelines and user policies. Why do people show dissatisfaction with today’s social networks? The answer is simple: hardly any social network offers a comprehensive toolset that satisfies the basic needs of the user. On the contrary, in the course of the past five years the UI has become more complicated or, conversely, dumbed down and lacking in critical functionality. And, of course, the algorithms — especially in content and ad distribution — have been acting strangely to say the least.

So, right now we are witnessing two parallel phenomena. There’s the extensive development of social networks, but their overall quality is in decline. Now, that’s not a crisis, but it could become one. Moreover, the situation affects everyone: users, businesses and developers. No wonder there are articles like 9 Effective Ways to Outsmart the Facebook Algorithm in 2018. Even the slightest side-effects, like the continuing interest in FidoNet, speak for themselves.

Besides unsatisfactory user experience, people today want a wider choice of options and tools online. For example, they don’t want to see ads that are irrelevant to their interests. That is why blockchain projects focused on advertising, allowing a user not only to decide what types of ads he wants to see but also to get paid for watching them, are becoming so popular.

Also, when basic requirements are not met, people seek solutions on the side. Even though FidoNet is an outdated technology, it is an autonomous, decentralised and secure network, offering a satisfactory basic toolset to communicate and to express oneself. But there’s an issue: hardly any regular user will consider setting up a good old dial-up modem and going all geeky. FidoNet is literally a club of outcasts (in the best sense, of course), but most of today’s users just want to use their fancy laptops and phones, with all the benefits of wireless connections. They also want a nice friendly UI which, as already mentioned, most social networks are having trouble providing, and much wider freedom of choice online. Incentivisation plays a huge role here.

Blockchain-based social media and messaging covers the basic needs of users, but without forcing them to downgrade. They also offer freedom of choice, fueled by incentives. Just like bankers, those behind the leading social media platforms have finally recognised the utility of blockchain technology. Below are some examples of current blockchain initiatives, led by well-known social media platforms and large telecoms corporations.

Telegram/TON

Telegram’s TON (Telegram Open Network) has definitely become the most hotly-anticipated blockchain project to date. Praised by users and specialists, TON is supposed to be the first groundbreaking platform to bring a variety of decentralised services to life on a mass-market scale. TON has raised $1.7 billion from private investors. The initial public ICO was cancelled not only due to the huge amount of money collected but because the SEC and CFTC could have considered the project’s tokens to be securities. Whatever the reason, TON certainly has enough money to fund its development. In May, the first TON functionality, Telegram Passport — aimed at eliminating anonymity with the platform, though keeping user data totally private with the use of two-factor authentication — was announced for launch in the summer of 2018.

Facebook

Of course, Facebook couldn’t stay out of the great blockchain revolution. Unlike Telegram, many assess Facebook’s blockchain initiative with skepticism, because it is considered nothing more than a way to counter the obvious threat of decentralisation: the company has been hostile towards other blockchain initiatives (for example, by banning crypto ads). This is unlikely to be quite so clear-cut, though. Crypto ads are under pressure everywhere, since there are no clearly established regulations for them yet. Moreover, if we take a look at the Facebook blockchain team, it is obvious that the company is pursuing goals similar to those of Telegram. For example, the team is led by David Marcus, former head of Facebook’s Messenger app. Marcus is also former president of PayPal. Moreover, he is on the board of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase and is an early Bitcoin investor. The team will supposedly focus on blockchain-based ID authentication, payment services and, of course, messaging.

WeChat

WeChat is one of the biggest social platforms in the world, with 1 billion users. One of the main features of the platform is that it allows developers to run applications on their own. Compared to Facebook, the company has been extremely harsh when it comes to blockchain. In May, WeChat suspended Xiao Xieyi, the first blockchain ‘mini-program’ on the platform, which allowed users to create contracts on the blockchain for a flat fee of 3 RMB ($0.50) as a payment to miners, writing the contract to the blockchain.

Kakao

South Korea’s messaging giant Kakao is planning to incorporate blockchain solutions into its structure. Currently, the company is looking for a suitable overseas jurisdiction to run an ICO, since token sales are banned in South Korea.

LINE

LINE, Japan’s largest messaging app with more than 200 million monthly active users, has recently partnered with ICON — the $1.6 billion blockchain project from South Korea. Within the partnership, LINE will deploy various decentralised applications (dApps) and its blockchain mainnet on the ICON blockchain protocol.

Cisco

Cisco has been showing interest in developing a confidential group communications method utilising blockchain technology. According to the company, it will be ‘a system and method for achieving authorization in confidential group communications in terms of an ordered list of data blocks representing a tamper-resistant chronological account of group membership updates’.

Birdchain

Earlier this year text messaging service Birdchain partnered with BitRewards, a company specialising in crypto rewards and customer loyalty programmes. According to the partnership, Birdchain users will be able to sell their unused SMS messages and data, and earn money watching promotional videos.

Telefónica

Recently Telefónica, the Spanish multinational broadband and telecommunications provider, partnered with Rivetz, a cybersecurity company, to develop a blockchain security solution for the mobile market. The partnership is aimed at developing a new decentralised way to improve security and data control in messaging and cryptocurrency wallet applications.

HTC

This one is intriguing: HTC is developing a blockchain phone called Exodus. According to the company, the device will have a universal wallet installed, allowing users to run dApps and use different cryptocurrencies.

NYNJA

In February, NYNJA Group Ltd., a global communications and mobile technology company, announced an international communications app with a built-in marketplace and cryptocurrency wallet.

But these cases prompt a new wave of questions, of which the key one is how will these heavily centralised systems incorporate distributed ledger solutions into their structure? Most likely, they will follow the basic patterns that were described in the articles ‘How Blockchain Will Influence Business’ and ‘The Future of DApps’. Some, on the other hand, are acting with complete hostility towards any changes associated with blockchain.

It is also important to answer another question: why did some of these social media giants and telecoms companies consider implementing blockchain technology in the first place? The answer is that they simply had no other choice. The amount of devices worldwide is rapidly growing, and the number of users is massively rising too. This leads to a tremendously increased volume of data that must be processed, otherwise the system will just halt or crash. And there’s no other way out but to implement blockchain-based solutions for P2P communication and data distribution. Going decentralised is the only right decision.

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