The ‘Frontpage of the Internet’ has been in rough waters recently. Its attitude towards free speech, and its position as an open exchange for ideas, have been threatened by new company policies.
The ‘Frontpage of the Internet’ has been in rough waters recently. Its attitude towards free speech, and its position as an open exchange for ideas, have been threatened by new company policies. The new direction has, in many ways, pitted some of the website’s core user base against the company itself.
A large part of the online community are calling for the resignation of the company’s CEO, Ellen Pao. Many redditors want her and her policies to leave, so that the social network can return to its prior free and anarchic state. But they might not have to wait for the company to make a decision, and are looking to a new Reddit-like website built with blockchain technology.
According to Ryan Charles, who left his job at BitPay to work as a ‘crypto-currency engineer’ for Reddit, the social network had been working to decentralize itself using the technology behind Bitcoin. He was hired by the company to work on the Reddit Notes project, a sort of digital currency that would be used to reward good content. Both Charles and the project were scrapped after Pao took charge as CEO.
In a post on his personal Medium blog Charles explained the way that a decentralized reddit could work. “Each user has an app, the reddit app, which connects to the reddit p2p network. For most users, the app is a normal web app. Each user funds their own app with a small amount of bitcoin. In order to download content, the user pays a very, very small amount of bitcoin to the peers on the network. This incentivizes people to keep the app open so as to keep servicing the other users. Furthermore, when a user upvotes content, that sends a small amount of bitcoin to the author of that content, thus incentivizing the production of good content. If all the content is authenticated, we can be reasonably sure most payments are going to the right people.”
“In this scenario, reddit, Inc. still exists, they just don’t have a monopoly on the hosting of reddit content. Instead, anyone can run the app to host the content, and reddit, Inc. is just the biggest service provider. Any user can run a business by running the app full-time. Any user, including reddit, Inc., can censor content they themselves deliver to other users, but cannot censor content other users send to other users.”
— – Ryan Charles
Charles is now looking to fulfill this dream, and is currently looking for developers to help bring the project to life. According to venture capitalist Fred Wilson a new blockchain-based Reddit is inevitable.
“It may be that there is no viable middle ground between a centrally controlled media platform and an entirely decentralized media platform,” he wrote in a blog post noting the divide between what Reddit the company wants, and what its users want.
“You are either going to police the site or you are going to build something that cannot be policed, even if you want to.”
— – Fred Wilson
Entrepreneurs have already been working on blockchain based social networks. In January last year, Twister launched as a Twitter-like application, but decentralized and uncensored. The app is supported by a strong development community, but has no company behind it.
Twister, which is commonly described as a decentralized P2P microblogging app, is built using Bittorrent and blockchain technologies. It doesn’t use the bitcoin blockchain, but instead uses its own, where each message is mined into the Twister blockchain. Mining is also used to create user accounts, using the Proof of Work algorithm found in Bitcoins protocol.
The decentralized Twitter has been around for little more than a year, but has failed to see a large influx of users. The peer to peer nature of the platform has seen it used for leaked documents, and the release of illicit material. Most recently, a Chinese user who went by the handle @lovechan was arrested after he spread leaked info about Chinas 50 Cent Party, the document showed people were being paid to promote the Chinese government’s propaganda and agenda.
“It is understood that the user called ‘love chan’, who was committed to promoting social networking software twister, on May 30 was arrested by Shanghai police,” reported Chinese news outlet Secretchina.com. “Twister is an open source P2P microblogging network, which is characterized by the message sent can not be blocked, not deleted after content publishing, publisher’s identity can not be tracked.”
According to Wilson, this is probably just the start of Reddit’s trouble, and that it will likely only get worse, but the ‘frontpage of the Internet’ will be here to stay.
“To be clear, this does not mean the end of Reddit or Twitter or any other of the current media platforms that are out there. They will likely move more and more into a centrally controlled media platform. I think that is the natural evolution of platforms that need to cater to the needs of management and shareholders. There is a good business to be had in a centrally controlled platform.”
— – Fred Wilson