The Rise of Web3 Social

Web3 Social Rise

What is Web3 social?

How is a Web3 social app different from Web2?

Have the early promises of decentralization, ownership, and disintermediation been realized or shaken by the myriad trade-offs of building complex technology? What changes will users, creators, and their communities experience?

These are some of the questions we will explore in the Web3 Social series. I am not a technologist or expert in web3 social, so I will be learning as I go! The first few articles will be dedicated to quickly overviewing things that define “web3 social”, including project types, key roles, dominant narratives, and so on. Just to make sure we have a general understanding of what we are looking at.

First, I will share a WIP mapping that I have been working on in parallel with a web3 social project database. With your help, I will be continually updating this map! But first, here is some background on why this series exists.

The story and intent behind this series

After spending all of 2022 working on mental health projects, I have fully shifted my focus to web3 with the goal of working with various projects and their communities as a consultant and creator. As I was looking for new clients, a good friend introduced me to Hadrien, the founder and CEO of Sismo, a Paris-based company that applies ZK to privacy and user data aggregation.

My best-case scenario was to assist Sismo with growth and marketing, but the outcome that emerged from the conversation was even more exciting. Hadrien suggested funding me to write an educational series of articles on web3 social sites. As someone who loves to investigate, learn, and share what I’ve learned, this was an opportunity I couldn’t find even if I tried.

So here I am, delving into web3 social, trying to understand the concepts and break the work of many clever builders down into understandable parts.

I have learned from many builders and thinkers and will continue to do so. These include Nir from Yup, Dan and Varun from Farcaster, Bradley from Lens, Jacob from Zora, Raz and Reka from Guild, Jakub from SGV, Peter and Nich from 1kx, Diana from Rehash, Pol from Converse, Matt from XMTP, Adam Belo from Guild, and many more.

Web3 Social v0 Status, July 2023

I think a good old map will be interesting from the beginning. We plan to upgrade and modify the mapping and corresponding database over the next few months so we can explore this space in more detail.

Let’s quickly describe each category of web3 social status (v0).

Protocol Level

The protocol provides the basic building blocks (or primitives) for Web3 social applications for developers: posting, commenting, following, messaging, etc. Thus, the protocol serves developers as end-users.

There are several attributes that make web3 social more attractive to developers than web2 social:

  • The goal of the Web3 protocol is decentralization and “trust neutrality,” which means there is no central entity that can prevent developers from using Web3 tools. This is similar to Reddit’s recent situation where Reddit significantly increased the cost of using its API. As a result, most third-party developers had to shut down their applications.

  • The Web3 social graph (transaction history and user data) can be publicly accessed and available for developers to use without bootstrapping their own social graph. It is known to be a difficult thing to do.

  • Web3 builders can leverage the body of existing building blocks and open-source code, raising the difficulty of executing ideas from zero to MVP.

The degree of decentralization of the protocol may fluctuate over time as their team must make medium-term and short-term trade-offs. Some projects are choosing different approaches, including progressive power delegation or “full power delegation.” The latter is based on the idea that the protocol only needs to be decentralized to the extent necessary to implement its original value proposition, and unnecessary functionality does not need to be decentralized.

Web3 social is still in its early stages, and key protocols are still in the initial stages of development. Some companies, such as Farcaster and Lens, have been partially focused on building web3 versions of web2 functionality, such as posting, commenting, and following. Now, new primitives for Web3 updates – such as minting, collecting, and granting access to NFT-based services – are being added to this mix. Overall, these elements will enable new use cases to be enabled at the application layer.

XMTP is an example of a web3 protocol that addresses the issue of message passing primitives and allows users to receive messages across different applications directly on their blockchain accounts through clients such as Luster and Converse.

Identity Layer

The identity layer provides a richer experience for web3 social applications by allowing users to create and aggregate data directly under decentralized identifier owners. This includes creating decentralized identities, names and avatars, profiles, transaction histories, data privacy and selective information sharing, and providing access to various digital social spaces.

Some projects in this layer are also protocols, but given the breadth of projects dealing with identity and social data, I think they should have their own layer in the stack. I believe that innovations in the identity layer will profoundly impact the experiences created at the application and client layer.

One of the expectations for web3 social is that users will control their own data and should be able to get a customized experience, even on their first use of an application. To achieve this goal, builders need identity layer projects to provide a rich and diverse set of data.

POAP is an example of an identity layer project that enriches the user experience of the Salsa chat application.

Client and Application Layer

The client and application layer are the user-facing interfaces and products built on top of web3 social protocols. They leverage the breadth of available protocols and identities to carefully design valuable and novel use cases for end users such as collectors, creators, and everyday consumers.

My initial thought was to segment them by the degree to which applications focused on different web3 social roles such as collectors, curators, and creators. I ultimately simplified the categorization of applications based on their primary function. Sometimes it’s difficult to categorize the most plug-and-play experiences, like Stealcam.

An example of a web3 social application is BlockingrtyBid, which makes it easy for people to buy things with cryptocurrency through a truly novel experience. The BlockingrtyBid application leverages the Blockingrty protocol.

Key Driving Factors

These are a series of technologies without which the protocols, tools, and applications cannot exist. Some examples are the ERC 721/1155/6551 standards, around which many projects are designed.

In this category, I also want to include key driving factors, such as the ability to build multiple clients on top of web3 social protocols.

Where are we going next?

I expect that as my understanding of the space deepens, there will be significant changes to this mapping. Here are some topics that I want to research and write about next:

  • 1. How decentralized is a stack of different layers of projects
  • 2. Who are the key social roles in web3
  • 3. What is the dominant web3 social narrative

We will continue to update Blocking; if you have any questions or suggestions, please contact us!


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