What are decentralised social networks?

What are decentralised social networks?

Table of Contents

  • What is a social network?
  • What are decentralised social networks?
  • How do decentralised social networks work?
  • Pros of decentralised social networks work?
  • Cons of decentralised social networks work?
  • What are some popular decentralised social media networks?
  • FAQs

What is a social network?

A social network is a platform or service that allows users to create profiles, share content, and connect with others based on common interests, life experiences, or personal connections.

It has become an integral part of many people's lives since its emergence in the mid-1990s, with around half the world's population now using social media.

There are 4.8 billion social media users worldwide, representing 59.9% of the global population and 92.7% of all internet users. The rise of social media is not surprising, considering its numerous benefits and attractive features.

One of the primary advantages is its ability to connect friends, families, and communities regardless of geographical distance. Through social networks, people can stay in touch and have real-time conversations, bridging the gap created by physical distance.

Another benefit of social media is its facilitation of information exchange and idea sharing. It provides a platform for seamless communication, allowing individuals to share thoughts, opinions, news, and various forms of expression. This ease of communication fosters connections and opens up opportunities for collaboration and learning.

Social networks also entertain users through a wide range of online content. You can access videos, articles, music, and other forms of media that cater to your interests and preferences.

Additionally, social media enables the creation of communities centred around shared passions, hobbies, or causes. Users can join groups, follow pages, and engage with like-minded individuals, building relationships and finding a sense of belonging.

In addition, social media has become an important tool for businesses to expand their reach and establish a robust online presence. It allows companies and brands to connect with a broader audience, promote their products or services, and build strong relationships with customers in the online space.

Statistic: Most popular social networks worldwide as of July 2023, ranked by number of monthly active users (in millions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Some popular social networks include Instagram, X formerly known as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and TikTok. These social networks are all on what is known as Web2.

Web 2, or "traditional" web, refers to the current state of the internet where most websites and social media platforms operate. It's characterised by centralisation, meaning that there are centralised companies or organisations that control and manage the platforms.

Social networks in the current Web2 landscape significantly impact public opinion, political discussions, and global connections. However, these platforms also encounter various challenges, particularly regarding privacy.

Similarly, there's the fact that centralised social networks generate revenue by selling user data. This has sparked awareness among people about the risks associated with sharing personal information.

Another concern revolves around the domination of social media by a handful of powerful companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. This concentration of power has led to criticism regarding their extensive influence and control over user data.

Censorship presents another significant challenge. Both governments and major social networks possess the authority to censor content and even suspend accounts, raising important questions about freedom of speech and expression.

Furthermore, social media platforms are facing increased regulatory scrutiny. Governments worldwide are tightening regulations to address concerns such as data privacy, election interference, and the dissemination of fake news and harmful content.

The advertising-dependent and data-collection business model of social media is also being scrutinised. As worries regarding data privacy and misleading information continue to grow, it has led to the rise of decentralised social networks.

What are decentralised social networks?

Decentralised social networks are a type of social network that stores user data and content on a blockchain and independent servers instead of centralised servers controlled by a single company.

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Unlike traditional Web2 social media platforms like Twitter/X, Instagram and Facebook, Web3 technology brings exciting advancements to this domain. Decentralised social media networks lead this transformation with their decentralised operation.

This approach grants users greater privacy, security, and control over their data, digital identity, and content. It also fosters transparency, as anyone can access the data anytime.

A significant advantage of blockchain-based social platforms is their ability to support free speech and resist censorship.

With no central authority manipulating content, users can freely express themselves without fear of being silenced. Additionally, these networks guarantee that user data cannot be owned, collected, or sold by any third party.

Furthermore, Web3 social networks often use cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to pay creators and users. This means that decentralised social networks are not only changing the infrastructure of traditional Web2 platforms but also revolutionising how social media companies generate revenue.

How do decentralised social networks work?

Let's break down how decentralised social networks work into components:

1. Decentralised and transparent data storage: In decentralised social networks, user data like profile pictures, information, posts, and interactions are stored on a blockchain. This decentralised storage provides greater privacy and security.

2. Smart contracts: The backbone of decentralised social networks, smart contracts are pieces of code that define the rules and operations of the network. They handle things like user interactions, content sharing, and reward systems.

3. Consensus mechanisms: To ensure trust and security, decentralised social networks use consensus mechanisms like proof-of-stake (PoS) or proof-of-work (PoW). These mechanisms validate transactions and maintain the integrity of the network.

4. Token economy: An essential element of decentralised social networks is the use of cryptocurrency tokens. You can earn these tokens as rewards for creating and sharing content, and they encourage active participation on the platform.

5. Decentralised applications (DApps): Many Web3 social networks are built as decentralised applications (DApps) or support DApps on top of them. DApps offer additional services and functionalities like payments, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and more.

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6. User authentication: Users of decentralised social media platforms are identified and authenticated using a secure public key infrastructure. This ensures the legitimacy and protection of user accounts.

7. Censorship resistance structures: In decentralised social networks, you can create and share content without worrying about centralised censorship. No third party has the power to remove or modify their content.

Pros of decentralised social networks

Here are some advantages of using decentralised social networks:

1. Increased Data and User Privacy: Decentralised social media platforms give users greater control and ownership over their data. This makes it harder for corporations or governments to access or misuse their personal information.

2. More Resilient Against Data Breaches: Unlike centralised servers, decentralised social networks store user data across a network of nodes. This makes them less vulnerable to large-scale data breaches. Additionally, users can create accounts without linking them to real-world identities, adding an extra layer of protection.

3. Reduced Censorship: Decentralised social networks empower users with freedom of expression, as there is no central authority to control or censor content. This allows for more open and diverse discussions. However, it's important to note that moderation may be limited, which can lead to issues like misinformation and cyberbullying.

4. Ownership of Personal Data, Information and Content: Users of decentralised social media retain ownership rights over their data and content. They have the opportunity to earn rewards for their contributions, offering a more fair and equitable environment.

5. Decision-Making Through Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs): Web3 social networks often utilise DAOs, where users can participate in the decision-making process. Smart contracts enable transparent and auditable governance, giving users a say in the network's direction and development.

6. Non-intrusive Advertising: Decentralised social networks strive to be independent of intrusive advertising. Instead, they explore alternative monetisation methods, such as digital currencies, to ensure sustainability while prioritising user privacy.

Cons of decentralised social networks

Here are some of the challenges and drawbacks of decentralised social networks:

1. Limited User Adoption: Decentralised social networks struggle to attract a large user base because most people are already accustomed to using major centralised platforms like X/Twitter or Instagram. This familiarity makes it challenging for decentralised networks to gain widespread adoption.

2. Complex For Most Users: Using decentralised social networks can be more complex and daunting for non-tech-savvy users. Navigating crypto-related concepts and interfaces can act as a barrier to entry.

3. Limited Features: Some decentralised social networks may currently have limited features and functionality compared to their centralised counterparts. This can affect their appeal and usefulness to potential users.

4. Hard to Scale and Manage: Managing large volumes of data and traffic is a concern for decentralised social networks. Their decentralised nature can pose scalability issues, making it difficult to handle high levels of user interactions and maintain fast and consistent performance.

5. Volatility and Financial Stability: Blockchain-based decentralised social networks often rely on native cryptocurrency economies. Market volatility and unexpected events can impact the value and stability of these cryptocurrencies, potentially affecting rewards earned by content creators and even leading to network shutdowns due to funding challenges.

6. Regulatory Challenges: Decentralised social networks face regulatory challenges as governments and financial institutions seek to establish standards for the blockchain and cryptocurrency space. The lack of global regulations can create uncertainties and complexities for these networks.

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Here are some popular decentralised social media networks for you to explore:

1. Diaspora: Launched in 2010, Diaspora is one of the oldest decentralised social media networks and was created as an alternative to Facebook.

2. Damus: Built on the Nostr protocol, Damus is a decentralised social media platform known for its user-friendly interface.

3. Mastodon: Considered the world's largest decentralised microblogging network, Mastodon offers an open-source alternative to Twitter and allows users to create and share short text posts.

4. Peepeth: Based on Ethereum, Peepeth aims to provide a more secure, private, and censorship-resistant platform for social media, serving as an alternative to Twitter.

5. Hive: Operating on the blockchain, Hive focuses on providing a secure and transparent social media experience.

6. Minds: With a focus on free speech and digital rights, Minds is a decentralised social network that offers users privacy, rewards, and control over their social media experience.

7. Pixelfield: An Instagram alternative, Pixelfield offers users control over their data and strives to maintain the privacy of users' images, free from advertisements.

8. Status: Status is a secure messaging decentralised application (DApp) that prioritises user privacy and encryption to protect messages from third parties.

9. Mirror: Built on Ethereum, Mirror is a decentralised publishing platform where creators can crowdfund ideas, monetise content, and build communities.

10. Lens Protocol: Launched by the team behind Aave, Lens Protocol is a decentralised social graph that empowers creators to take ownership of their content using Web3 technology.

11. Steemit: Founded in 2014, Steemit is a blockchain-based blogging and social media website that rewards users with the STEEM token for their contributions.

12. DTube: DTube is a blockchain-based social media video network initially built on the Steem blockchain and IPFS (InterPlanetary File System), where users are rewarded with STEEM tokens.

13. Only1: Only1 is an NFT-powered social media protocol built on the Solana blockchain, allowing users to engage with content through NFTs.

14. Aether: Aether is an open-source platform that serves as an alternative to Reddit, providing self-governing communities with auditable moderation and moderator elections.

Final Thoughts

Traditional Web2 social media platforms often face significant issues such as censorship, lack of user privacy, and demonetisation. These problems have left many users feeling unsatisfied and seeking alternatives.

That's where decentralised social networks, as a potential solution, come into play. It offers the possibility of a more transparent, secure, and user-centric social media experience.

The future looks promising for Web3 social media platforms as users increasingly seek more control over their data, privacy, and ways to monetise their content on their own terms.


Q. What is a decentralised social network?

A. A decentralised social network is a platform that operates without a central authority, enabling users to interact, share content, and connect with others directly without relying on a single controlling entity.

Q. How does a decentralised social network differ from traditional social media?

A. Unlike traditional social media, decentralised networks do not rely on a central server or company to manage user data. Instead, they use blockchain technology or peer-to-peer networks to distribute control and data management.

Q. What is an example of a decentralised social network?

A. Mastodon, Diaspora, Hives, Status and Steemit are examples of decentralised social networks that are popularly used.

Q. What are the benefits of using a decentralised social network?

A. Here are some benefits of using a decentralised social network:

  • Enhanced privacy and data ownership.
  • Reduced censorship and content control.
  • Greater control over personal information and content.
  • Reduced dependency on a single platform or company.

Q. How do I create an account on a decentralised social network?

A. Account creation varies from one network to another. Typically, you'll need to install a compatible application or use a web interface, create a wallet or identity, and set up your profile.

Q. Are decentralised social networks more secure and private than centralised ones?

A. Decentralised networks offer improved privacy and security compared to centralised alternatives, but they're not immune to all threats. Security depends on network design and user behaviour.

Q. What is the role of blockchain in decentralised social networks?

A. Blockchain technology is often used to store and secure user data, including profiles and content. It also facilitates transactions, such as cryptocurrency-based tipping.

Q. Can I use decentralised social networks on my mobile device?

A. Yes, many decentralised social networks have mobile apps or websites you can access on your smartphones, laptops and tablets.

Q. Are decentralised social networks completely free to use?

A. It depends on the network. Some may be entirely free, while others may charge fees for specific features or services.

Q. How can I connect with friends on a decentralised social network?

A. Typically, you can search for users by username or public key or import your existing contacts using a decentralised standard like Web3 or Solid.

Q. Can I switch back to a centralised social network if I don't like a decentralised one?

A. Yes, you can switch back to centralised social networks at any time. You can have profiles or accounts on both centralised and decentralised social networks.

Q. What challenges do decentralised social networks face?

A. Challenges include network adoption, scalability, and the need for user-friendly interfaces. Additionally, managing malicious content can be more difficult without centralised control.

Q. Are decentralised social networks legal and regulated?

A. The legality and regulation of decentralised social networks vary by jurisdiction. Some governments may have restrictions or requirements for these platforms.

Q. Can I monetise my content on a decentralised social network?

A. Many decentralised networks offer ways for content creators to earn cryptocurrency-based rewards through tips, subscriptions, and more.

Q. How can I report abuse or inappropriate content on a decentralised social network?

A. Reporting mechanisms differ by network but often involve community-driven moderation, and users can report content that violates platform guidelines.

Q. Is it possible to use decentralised social networks for business or professional networking?

A. Yes, you can use decentralised networks for professional purposes, just as you would with traditional social media.

Disclaimer: This article was written by the writer to provide guidance and understanding of cryptocurrency trading. It is not an exhaustive article and should not be taken as financial advice. Obiex will not be held liable for your investment decisions.