While Facebook pursues crypto, crypto is pursuing social media.
Block.one – the multibillion-dollar startup that built the EOSIO platform – is the latest blockchain firm with social-media aspirations. Announced Saturday at a glitzy event in Washington, D.C., the new platform is called Voice.
Block.one says Voice will stand out by not turning its users into products.
In a release, CEO Brendan Blumer said:
“Our content. Our data. Our attention. These are all incredibly valuable things. But right now, it’s the platform, not the user, that reaps the reward. By design, they run by auctioning our information to advertisers, pocketing the profit, and flooding our feeds with hidden agendas dictated by the highest bidder. Voice changes that.”
Voice will run on the EOS blockchain, which is also upgrading to a faster Version 2.0. By using the public chain, everything posted to EOS will be public. Meanwhile, the leading social network in the world, Facebook, announced earlier this year it would move in the opposite direction – with CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlining a “privacy-focused vision for social networking.”
Excitement in DC
At an event with the production values one might expect from a company that has raised $4 billion in funding, Blumer came out on stage and offered a manifesto against social media as we know it. (You can watch the full keynote here.)
“Our attention has been captured,” Blumer told the crowd. “Social media has not been a good friend to us.”
He promised that Block.one’s new social media product would not let algorithms decide what dominates. Everyone, he said, would have an equal shot to be heard.
“Everyone – the user, the platform, the contributor – plays by the same rules,” Blumer said.
He also promised that Voice will do a better job of keeping out bots and trolls than previous social networks, without really going into the mechanics of doing so. Previously, though, Block.one brought on stage a product lead from Yubico, the makers of YubiKey, to talk about ways in which EOS would integrate with WebAuthn, a password-less standard recently approved by the W3C, which governs the worldwide web.
All attendees at the event were given a new YubiKey.
At the end of Blumer’s talk, the massive screen behind him exhorted viewers to “Unlike shady algorithms” and “Unfollow being followed.”
Then it was Block.one CTO Dan Larimer’s turn.
“Social media was intended for good,” said Larimer, who previously co-founded a blockchain-based social media site, Steemit, before leaving for Block.one in 2017.
He came on stage to announce a new token, the Voice token. “Everyone who signs up for Voice will get an EOS account,” he said.
The chief mechanic Larimer showed off was one in which users could stake Voice tokens to move to the top of a chain of comments. If someone else staked tokens to go above them, the first user would get their tokens back and then some.
This additional pressure on the EOS blockchain should be partially offset by another announcement Larimer made: EOSVM.
“This is a WebAssembly engine designed specifically for blockchain,” Larimer said, promising it would run 12-times faster than the original EOSIO software, which was released on June 1, 2018.
Signups for Voice beta access are now open at Voice.com.
“We can’t wait to see what people will do with it,” Larimer said.
Social-media-oriented crypto projects up to this point have largely resembled Tumblr or Medium, with the occasional Twitter imitation.
While the argument for incentivizing contributions is compelling, the model has had a hard time catching on.
For example, in 2016, Tsu, a social network that promised to share its earnings with its users, shut down. It claimed to have 5.2 million users when the service ended. A frequent complaint about Tsu was that its promise of remuneration generated spammy behavior.
Steemit, meanwhile, is the Medium-like social network built on top of the Steem blockchain. According to Dapp.com, it was the only major dapp blockchain where social media was the dominant use case, with 93 percent of users touching its social dapps (of which, Steemit dominates). A recent estimate from May put the active users in that month at 75,644.
Dapp.com estimated that Steem had over 386,000 active users for the year, while it gave EOS slightly over 171,000 active users in 2018, with 67 percent using its betting products.
It’s worth noting that EOS only had six months in which to build up a user base. After a yearlong ICO that generated more than $4 billion for Block.one, EOS officially launched on June 15, 2018.
Block.one CEO Brendan Blumer announces Voice, screenshot via Block.one livestream