Blockchain Won't Topple Facebook

The Cambridge Analytica debacle has hurt Facebook, but a blockchain social network is not going to replace the platform

Leah Zitter
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No, Blockchain will not take over Facebook. That’s my opinion after opening an account on Minds.com, the only viable Facebook substitute.

Facebook has been setting tongues wagging with its Cambridge Analytica debacle where the UK data analytics firm won the White House for Donald Trump by stealing private data of 87 million Facebook users. Not that this has been Facebook’s first ignominy. The company has also been accused of censoring news, trespassing user confidentiality, stimulating internet addiction, jealousy and stress, hate speech, incitement of rape, and terrorisim, conspiracy “news”, and tax avoidance, among a host of not-so-admirable issues.

Zuckerberg knows he needs to do better
Zuckerberg knows he needs to do better

Small wonder, then, that a torrent of writers from CNN to TheNextWeb.com predict Facebook’s surrender to blockchain.

The reasons are convincing. The decentralized ledger is "decentralized" so thousands if not billions of websites share the responsibility of hosting it. This removes the opportunity of one central authority, like Facebook, from defining what you read and grabbing your revelations for its profit.

“If DuckDuckGo,” one of my readers told me, ”could compete with Google only because of its complete privacy option, blockchain could use that same strong value prop to defeat Facebook.”

Minds.com

To date, Blockchain's most likely Facebook replacement is Minds.com that in 2017  broke the crowdfunding record for the fastest startup to raise $1 million, largely because Minds was backed by influential hacktivist team Anonymous.

Minds.com wowed prospectors with its promise of giving the world, as its representatives told me, “its first open source and decentralized social network for Internet freedom.”

According to The Independent:

The site, Minds.com, has the same basic options as any other social network: users send updates to their followers, who can comment or promote posts that they read. But unlike its competitors it doesn’t aim to make money from gathering data — instead, it encrypts all private messages sent between users, so that they can’t be read by advertisers or by governments.

Minds.com also uses a simple algorithm to boost content.

In 2017, “Candid Writer” exulted, “I’ve gotten nearly 700 views and it’s only day one and I didn’t pay a dime for the visibility to my content.”

That's a big thing if you’re a marketing professional or a writer (or something along those lines) and would do anything short of prostitution to grab eyeballs for your posts.

“Your content has the potential to get more views on Minds.com,” CandyWriter raved, “than any other social media platform online and they encourage monetization too and you can’t go wrong there.”

Yes, Minds.com also pays you for your content!

On the side, Minds helps you translate your posts in whichever language you want, helps you find people and groups for networking and ‘friending’, helps you vote content up or down (just like in FB), and helps you share photos and videos.

For the future, Minds will also feature a built-in wallet for users to freely manage their earnings, anonymous accounts and a non-tracking ad model.

I have a puny account on Facebook. I signed up for Minds.com to test the difference.

Impressions

The Minds.com interface is simple enough, but the News, Videos, Blogs and Channels skedaddle from crazy left to crazy right with no, or scarce, moderating influence. The Groups are somewhat more interesting; there seems enough diversity for everyone. After you post your ads, you can still edit them. That is joy right there. Facebook cannot do that.

The process:

Signing in is simple. You’re given a choice to earn tokens for your content. If you skip that option, you’re asked for an additional password “to ensure that your messages are private and fully encrypted.”

Transferring to Facebook, I encounterd my familiar blue interface with its mess of Posts, Messenger, Events, Pages, Groups, Photos, Fundraisers, Games, Marketplace, Live Videos, Jobs and more. I can create an Ad, a Page, a Group, an Event, a Fundraiser.

One correspondent who briefly tried Minds told me, “I left the platform only because my friends didn't follow me.” People mainly use Facebook to connect with their friends. It took 12 years for Facebook to build to 2 Billion people. Minds will have to get there faster if it wants to slaughter Facebook in the near future.

For the moment, too, Minds faces challenges with its Channels, Blocks, Groups, and Network where, as Francois Carpentier, Senior Product Manager and Co-Founder at Ubertus.org noted, some of these could could easily become overrun by robot spammers or trolls, among other problems.

Still, you have to admire Minds founder Bill Ottman for his optimism. “Now it’s just a matter of catching up to [mainstream platforms] in terms of functionality," he told YahooFinance. “When people have the choice between something transparent, protecting privacy, and reward-based — it’s a no brainer.”

Conclusion

As of March 2018, Minds has 1 million users. As of January, 2018, Facebook has more than 2.2 billion monthly active users. YahooFinance commented that it would take a village to actualize Minds.com’s vision.  Facebook is the equivalent of the population of Russia, USA, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan and China. China alone, which has the world's largest population of 1.4 billion, is smaller than Facebook. It takes more than a village to compete with Facebook!

On top of that, Facebook has deep pockets. It bought the What’s App instant messaging service for $19 billion. That valuation made What’s App bigger than nearly 80 national economies, and that is just one of dozens of acquisitions by Facebook. Facebook does not readily encourage competitors. It swipes them flat in their tracks. Thus, to stop What’s App from getting instant messaging, Facebook bought What’s App, and to stop Instagram from getting image sharing moving, Facebook bought Instagram.

What are Minds.com's advantages? Anonymity. Minds.com makes your social sharing more private, handing over the keys to the castle to you. The company also gives you a model that’s more transparent. But these are problems that Zuckerberg pledged he’s going to overcome.

Whether he actually will is dubious.

But Facebook’s here to stay.