If Bitcoin appeared before Twitter, would the history of social networks be rewritten? One night in 2007, Jack Do …
One night in 2007, Jack Dorsey had a dream.
Jack was a child used to being alone since he was a child. While other children were playing American football, he was busy obsessed with studying maps and train sounds. The train driver and dispatcher communicated the geographic location by radio, and in his eyes had a unique charm-these communications were expressed in a simple and efficient way: "where are they going," "what are they doing," where are you now".
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Years later, the child created a product called Twitter. The Twitter name is a kind of bird call, which is characterized by short, frequent and fast-this is in line with the "simple and efficient" connotation of this social networking site. As a child, my research on trains was unintentionally the inspiration for Twitter's original origins.
This day is June 2007, Twitter has just been online for more than a year. Three months ago, at the Southwest Southwest Conference in Texas, Twitter won the Best Blog Award, and the number of registered users also rose, first exceeding 100,000, and 3 months later, it exceeded 250,000. The whole office was filled with excitement.
Jack stared at his cell phone in his seat, thinking about the state of the clockwork. To make it easier for people to use Twitter via text messages, the team just added a somewhat weird feature to the product in February: a 140-word limit. 140 words make people send shorter and shorter messages, and make the spread of information faster and faster.
He suddenly thought of a post I saw a few days ago that mentioned something called Bitcoin. A netizen named Satoshi Nakamoto is developing an agreement on electronic money. It is said that he originally wanted to publish a paper in 2008 before announcing the project, but eventually couldn't help writing the code one year in advance. It is said that the progress is currently good.
What does "electronic money agreement" mean? Jack didn't want to understand, but he vaguely thought it was a bit interesting.
After returning home from work tonight, Jack had a strange nightmare. He dreamed that Twitter was a hit. As users grow faster and faster, the company's technological capabilities are gradually unable to keep up with development, and products often go down, but the company is busy developing new features. The management team is struggling with all kinds of problems and the relationships between partners. It also gradually deteriorated, and the CEO battle in the office was like a court battle.
But all this is not the most terrible. The worst thing Jack dreamed about was that Twitter became one of the world's largest social networks. With the increase in the number of users, political manipulation, cyber violence, zombie accounts, hate speech, Twitter is full of vulgar and eye-catching information streams.
To make matters worse, when he wanted to do some rude comments on the platform, users complained that Twitter managed too much; when he wanted to let go, the government and the law had a responsibility to require them to step in. On the other hand, due to the pursuit of profits by commercial companies, the platform's recommendation algorithm continuously pushes similar content for users in order to attract more clicks. Although Twitter went public, it has become what it hates most.
At work the next day, Jack told partner Evan the nightmare of last night. This nightmare made him feel a bit heavy. In order to prevent Twitter from ending like this, he told Evan that maybe we should make Twitter more open, not to make a product, but to make an agreement-no Wrong, just like the Internet's TCP / IP protocol, anyone can develop new products on it, which is also a liberation for the team.
But aren't we doing that now? Evan didn't quite understand Jack's idea. In his opinion, Twitter is now sufficiently open. All APIs used by the product are public. Any developer can call the data on the platform at will. In the future, there may even be different Twitter clients to allow users to choose freely. What makes a protocol different from an open API?
The difference is that Jack continues to explain his ideas. If Twitter goes public in the future, in order to make money, we must stop the API and block all other clients, so that we can capture the most users and squeeze the most profits. If we make a decentralized agreement, we will not be able to prevent others from developing applications on the agreement, because the agreement does not belong to anyone. At the same time, what kind of behavior the user has on the application and what kind of content review policy the platform needs to govern the community are all irrelevant to us.
To make an analogy, it's like making a social network into another "email box." Mail on the Internet follows the same set of standards, including the SMTP protocol, the IAMP protocol, and more. Whether it is Yahoo Mail, Gmail Mail, or Hotmail, they all use the same protocol. In this way, even if users use different products, they still communicate with each other. For example, my use of Yahoo Mail does not affect my sending email to Gmail. .
If someone makes a new product using the same protocol, from the first day of its birth, this product has the advantage of being compatible with Gmail and sending emails. What's more, the standardization of the agreement allows you to download, delete, or transfer your email data unconditionally on the Gmail platform-the cost of user migration is almost zero.
In this way, whenever a new product enters the market, facing existing giant players, it will not face the disadvantage of being an absolute monopoly in the market, because users can always migrate their own data to new products. In other words, the market will remain open.
So what would it be like to build a decentralized protocol for social networks? Think about it this way:
This set of social network protocols may be called SSNP (Simple Social Network Protocol) protocol. The SSNP protocol defines what a social network such as Twitter looks like. It has standards for account registration, standards for user data storage and migration, and basic functions such as tweeting, reposting, commenting, following, and liking. .
If a product is built according to the SSNP protocol, then it naturally interworks with other SSNP protocol products. What is the concept of interworking here?
For example, when a user on the Weibo “王 大锤 @ weibo.com” posts a Weibo, he can “@” a user on Twitter “Chandler@twitter.com” and the other party will receive a reminder of this information; in turn, Twitter Users on Weibo can also follow the big V on Weibo and give likes and comments to the content posted by the other party.
Weibo and Twitter can have their own content review policies, their own speaking rules, their own community culture, and they can also have different clients in functional design and appearance UI. At the same time, when users want to migrate to "fans", the migration cost will be very low. Users can export their own data, take away their followers and followers, and continue to live on a new platform without affecting the use of the new account (new user name @ fanfou.com).
After Jack said the idea, the entire office fell silent. Obviously, this "negotiation over platform" approach is closer to what Twitter looked like when it was born, and it is also a model that the team wants more.
At the same time, one of the most important issues remains unsolved.
We are a commercial company, and developing agreements does not make money. How can we maintain the long-term operation of the team? Even if it is in the early stage of financing, it is not necessary to consider the business model, but sooner or later the investor's money needs to be realized and exited. At this time, an open source agreement cannot monopolize the user's data and their social relationships, and it may be difficult. Capture the value of real money on social networks.
Jack also has no answer to this question. He thought about it, but there was no good way. Either forget the idea or postpone the issue indefinitely. This is the last seemingly unsolvable level.
Suddenly, a word flashed through his mind: Bitcoin.
Yes, this person named Satoshi Nakamoto, he is developing a network in the same way, but not a social network, but a payment network.
Jack suddenly opened up. Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer electronic payment network. Anyone can use this network to transfer money to another person in the world, without the need for companies and intermediaries. The overhead cost of this payment system is borne by P2P nodes in the network. These nodes are also called miners. They earn rewards by protecting the Bitcoin network. This reward is the Bitcoin automatically distributed by the system.
As more people use the Bitcoin network, Bitcoin as a reward becomes even more valuable. The founding team of the development agreement, and the nodes that first joined the Bitcoin network, theoretically could obtain a large number of Bitcoins at a relatively cheap price in the early days. Afterwards, the value of the network becomes larger, and the returns they receive will also be greater. In this way, while developing a decentralized protocol, Bitcoin also solves the problem of the business model.
If someone can develop an electronic money protocol in this way, why can't we use the same method to develop a social network protocol? After all, electronic money and social networks seem to belong to the necessities and public utilities of human society. It is difficult to commercialize, but at the same time it needs to assume public social functions.
There was still silence in the office. Jack hasn't had time to tell everyone these thoughts in his heart. He must then confirm that his understanding of Bitcoin is correct. He was thinking that maybe he should talk to this person called Satoshi Nakamoto first.
All in all, Twitter's prospects are still vague, but Jack has at least some answer in mind.
He was still thinking, maybe in addition to Twitter, he should make another product.
After all, Bitcoin has just begun, and its power is still very weak. The question of whether decentralized electronic money can succeed is a question mark. Maybe he should first make a centralized payment product to solve the problem of people receiving money and paying. If this product becomes available, he will be happy to turn around to help Satoshi Nakamoto and fund the development of this Bitcoin project … Of course, this is all a matter of course.
This story is purely fictitious.
Finally, say two more words:
1. Twitter's CEO Jack recently released an intriguing news: Twitter will fund a small team of 5 people, personally participated by the Twitter CTO, to jointly develop a decentralized social network protocol, and Twitter will be in compliance with this protocol standard One of the clients.
This team is called Bluesky, and it has a lot of freedom and autonomy. They can refer to the existing work on Twitter unlimitedly. If they feel that they need to start a new stove, it is perfectly fine.
2. Jack mentioned that the decision was made because he realized that some things are difficult for a centralized platform to do. For Twitter, these things include:
First, based on the content on social networks, a set of global censorship policies is provided. In fact, the regional legal requirements are different from the community culture, which is almost impossible.
Second, the recommendation algorithms for social applications are not open source, and users do not have the freedom to choose.
Third, social applications, for their own benefit, will push content that attracts attention rather than healthy content.
The emergence of new technologies makes decentralization possible.Blockchain provides an open and sustainable data storage strategy, as well as governance mechanisms and monetization mechanisms.
3. USV investor Fred Willson retweeted Jack's tweet and agreed with it. He said that Twitter's early path was closer to that of decentralized protocols. The API was open to the outside world, and there were many third-party clients. However, the team decided They chose a more centralized path.
In the decision-making environment at the time, this decision was absolutely correct for a business company. But Fred sometimes thinks that if Twitter appeared after the birth of Bitcoin rather than before the birth of Bitcoin, the results might be very different.
4. Jack holds Bitcoin, and only holds Bitcoin. His other payment company, Square, has created a project called Square Crypto to fund research related to the Bitcoin protocol.
5. But many users are not optimistic about Twitter's "decentralization" and "self-revolution". One reason many people mentioned is that there are actually many similar decentralized social networks. They are open source. The product is also an open protocol, but has not attracted many users to actually use it.
According to the Orange Book, there may be several reasons for this:
1. Existing experience of these decentralized products, compared with existing products, the gap is too large, difficult to use, difficult to use;
2. The existing social network protocols have not become the de facto standard, and the protocol itself is not enough for developers. Jack may have some potential in this area. Think about it. If Zhang Xiaolong said in China that he would launch a decentralized WeChat protocol, would there be more developers responding?
3. If it is not possible to “interoperate” with the existing social network platform, the new social network platform is difficult to measure. Because Facebook, Twitter, Weibo and other platforms firmly control users' data and relationship chains, the network effect is too large, and it is almost impossible for all users to migrate in the past. It would be a very big difference if Jack were the leader to get this protocol to work with Twitter first.