Why blockchain and social media don’t mix (yet)

There are already plenty of examples of social media-on-the-blockchain

There’s been plenty of interest around Reddit’s announcement it’s experimenting with Ethereum-based tokens for two of its subreddits – r/CryptoCurrency and r/FortNiteBR.

The tokens – Bricks for Fortnite and Moon for Cryptocurrency – have been awarded to previously active participants on those channels and are now currently running on the Ropsten testnet.

Proponents of social-media-on-the-blockchain suggest this is the first move in a much wider trend that will combine our obsession with sharing information with all and sundry, with the potential value that comes from tokenization. 

Maybe. But before we get too excited, it’s worth thinking about the many previous attempts to combine these two disparate sectors.

No likes

As the recent DappRadar report on Social Dapps shows there are already plenty of examples of social media-on-the-blockchain.

There’s video platform DTube, chat platform GuildChat, the Instagram-Esque Karma, etc. None of them have experienced anything like the sort of viral scaling that most social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WeChat, TikTok, etc – have experienced in order to become globally significant. 

Indeed, the best example of social media-on-the-blockchain to-date has been blogging platform Steemit, which is currently losing audience as its community deals with the Hive hard fork that’s split its audience into Steemit vs Hive Blog and Peakd.

Perhaps that’s just a temporary blip. But, more generally, DappRadar tracks 37 different social dapps, and currently, none of them have more 2,000 weekly users. 

That compares to 40 million daily active users for TikTok, 166 million DAUs for Twitter, 400 million for WeChat, and 1.7 billion DAUs for Facebook and Instagram.

This sort of reality check can even be seen in early data from Reddit. Of the 1.2 million subscribers of r/FortNiteBR, only 1% have claimed their Brick tokens. For r/CryptoCurrency, the conversion rate is even smaller – only 0.28% have claimed their Moons.

Of course, when the service actually goes live on the Ethereum mainnet, conversation rates will rise, but it has to be said Reddit users don’t yet appear to be particularly excited about their new blockchain integration. 

Chicken or egg?

This situation highlights the great dilemma for most consumer-facing blockchain projects.

The complexities of working with blockchains mean it’s really hard to onboard users and scale to even thousands of active users, no matter how many tokens you’re giving away. 

Conversely, when retro-fitting blockchain features to existing high trafficked social apps, it’s hard to make these features relevant and deep without breaking the existing, well-understood user experience. 

And this is particularly true for social dapps because onboarding millions, even billions, of users quickly and simply is required to create the network effects that drive their growth. 

No doubt, as blockchains develop, becoming quicker and easier to use, this situation will change. 

For example, it’s significant that more than three years since Steemit (and Steem) launched, it remains the most popular social dapp. Designing a blockchain that’s specifically optimized for social media is probably the way to go.

But until that time and for all its issues, it looks like ‘Crypto Twitter’ will remain our most important social media. 

As always, we will continue watching this space. In the meantime, you can explore social media dapp rankings on DappRadar.

A big thank you to our supporters at Feedspot for including our content in their top 40 blockchain blogs and websites on blockchain technology.

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