15 years ago, at the Facebook F8 Event in San Francisco, Mark Zuckerberg took the stage in the traditional uniform of a computer geek, telling the audience that they were on the verge of a revolution. Without all kinds of bells and whistles, within 3 years since it was founded, Facebook beated eBay and the likes to become the 6th most visited site in the US. To the crowd’s excitement, Mark introduced Facebook's secret sauce for their recent meteoric growth: the social graph.
As of 2010, Facebook's social graph boasted the largest social network dataset in the world, containing the largest number of defined relationships between the largest number of people among all websites. Thanks to the efficiency in spreading information through the social graph, other Facebook’s applications also rose to the leaderboard in their categories. In the same year, TIME honored Mark as its Person of the Year.
Fast forward to 2021, once again, Mark was featured on the cover of TIME, but in a different air this time. "Delete Facebook?" - it asked. Concerns were raised around whether Facebook is focusing more on making profit than people’s security. It's the way the company manages their social graph and the user data generated from it that got them in trouble. Big time.
Fears about the security of private data are making many people rethink their use of centralized social networks like Facebook and Twitter. This time around, we will explore some alternative forms of social graphs. Whatever your option is, you should always be aware of how your personal information could be used.
WHAT IS A SOCIAL GRAPH?
A social graph is a global mapping of people, groups, organizations and how they are related in an online social network. When you tag a friend, like a page, or check in a place on Facebook, you are completing your social graph.
According to Matt Hartman, one way to think about the complex social graphs of different platforms is to break them down to four fundamental components:
- Nodes: actors in the network, e.g., people, places
- Data: the content being shared between the nodes, e.g., tweet
- Edges: lines that denote relationships between nodes, e.g., bidirectional “friend”, single-directional “follow”
- Jumping functions: specific ways to transmit data from one subgroup of users to another on the same platform, e.g., retweeting, liking.
Social graph is central to the utility of a platform since micro tweaks in social graph can result in macro changes in the user experience. For example, because of the bidirectional edge, Facebook becomes a much more intimate space for friends and family, whereas Twitter serves as an effective means for news dissemination. Quora and Reddit let users follow topics instead of people. The better a platform’s social graph is crafted, the less feeds feel like spam for users and the more value it can deliver.
Third parties leverage social graphs to offer personalized recommendations. For example, TripAdvisor leverages Facebook’s social graph to build a simple way for travellers to collect advice from their Facebook friends when planning their travel on TripAdvisor. You may also have noticed that everything you listen to on Spotify is shared with your friends, and vice versa. When Spotify integrated the social feature into its platform, traffic increased 4 times.
TYPES OF SOCIAL GRAPHS
When we take a step back and zoom out, the relationship between every user’s device and the platform’s server is also a type of social graph. As such, social graphs fall into three categories: Centralized, Decentralized (Federated), and Distributed (Peer-to-peer).
Today, the most popular social media sites are run by gigantic tech companies like Meta, Google, Twitter, ByteDance, with Facebook getting the lion’s share. These platforms are centralized since all of your interactions are hosted in the company’s servers.
- Production and running costs are covered by platform’s owners in order to attract users in the first place
- If users forget their account credentials, they can ask for a password reset
- The social graph is isolated behind the platform’s walled garden, preventing users from bringing the social graph with them to another platform
- The balkanized environment prevents the broader developer community from trying to fix the platform’s problems
- Users don’t get a say in how the platform should be run or how profit is shared
- User data are vulnerable to attacks if the governance of data is compromised, or if server admins abuse their power or shut down the service
- Algorithmically curated feeds promote bias and polarization
DECENTRALIZED (FEDERATED) & DISTRIBUTED (P2P)
Unlike the centralized design, the decentralized networks operate on independently run servers and are usually powered by blockchain. Users can choose a server (service provider) to sign up with, and then have access to the entire network across many different servers. Case in point for the federated design is email protocol. You can sign up with Gmail and still can communicate with a Yahoo user or with anyone with an email address.
In a P2P social graph, everyone’s device becomes a server that interoperates with others in the network. In this model, each node can work as both the owner and user. Some nodes may have special roles, like public bootstrap nodes that help new nodes join the network, but every node is still functionally equivalent.
Decentralized and P2P are different designs to building networks that are reliable by nature and structurally empower users.
Zero-trust alternatives that promise anonymity and resilience against censorship and data leaks.
- Users have more freedom of choices for applications, policies, and community cultures
- Enable users to move seamlessly across platforms without rebuilding their social graph at each destination
- Collective users of a platform can directly participate in the voting process, hence they do have a say in where the project goes and how the profit is shared.
- Users are incentivized to maintain the project, because they get rewarded (in the form of tokens) only when the project is functioning.
- The production and running costs are split amongst a number of actors
- Burden of responsibility when it comes to recovering a lost or stolen password
THE SOCIAL GRAPH IN WEB3
With the rise of digital asset communities where users own high-value assets and demand significant skin in the game, centralized social platforms have been rendered obsolete. People have quickly come to look for decentralized & P2P communication platforms where one retains full control of his social graph and the personal data it contains.
SPKZ.io is our effort at bringing freedom and security to web3 online communications. The foundation of solving the issue lies in the user's web3 wallet. Instead of phone numbers or personal data, users use crypto wallets such as Metamask to connect to lounges (servers on SPKZ). That’s it.
DECENTRALIZED SOCIAL GRAPH
At its core, SPKZ is a decentralized platform. Here’s how it works:
Every lounge is a node. You, as the lounge creator, host your own server. So instead of “borrowing” a digital space where your community interacts, you own the space. Let’s say you’re a content creator with a thriving community. Building your social graph on a decentralized platform frees you from the lingering fear of “what if one day Youtube shuts down and I lose all my long-built identity & fanbase?”.
Lounge owners can also set up access requirements. The requirements can be that of holding a specific token in your wallet or a specific token amount and/or holding time. With lounge limitations, joining a community is no longer “free.” For scammers, it does become an investment, since they will have to acquire the tokens to enter. Furthermore, if you include the holding time limitation, a scammer now needs to invest time as well as money.
Besides Lounges, we are also working on Private Rooms. which in the future will act as P2P servers. Mint a Room and you'll be able to connect with anyone with an Etherum address.
FROM ZERO-SUM TO POSITIVE-SUM
As said by Kyle Samani: “A single company won’t unseat your social graph from Facebook and Twitter. An army of thousands will''. We have a long way ahead, and we are inviting all web3 builders to scale with us. The SPKZ protocol is purposed for a multi-chain ecosystem: we are supporting Mainnet Ethereum, Polygon, Avalanche, xDai, POA network, and more to come.
Taking it one step further, Lens Protocol is another new social network effort from the Aave team. The protocol is providing a way for each user to take the value that they add to communities across their social media networks with them. Entirely composable, this new type of social graph allows users to mint and own all of their activity on chain, from the creation of their profiles, to the comments they leave. And following the tenets of web3, any application can plug into and use the Lens Protocol. According to Aave founder Stani Kulechov: “Lens Protocol helps developers to build web3 native social media, without creating the user base from scratch. Any application built on top of Lens expands the social graph and benefits all the applications in the ecosystem.”
GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR NFTS
When a new user joins a community, the most often question they ask is: what to do with my NFT besides holding it? Bored Ape Yacht Club addresses this by organizing treasure hunts, limited merchandise drops, and starting a Decentraland exclusive space. Similarly, another similar project called Wicked Cranium collaborated with SkullCandy to create limited edition headphones and other engaging collectibles.
For a community to get the most out of its activities, it’s essential to have everything in a single place. Nowadays, members need to jump from Telegram to Twitter to websites if they want to take part in such events. Besides offering decentralized communication, SPKZ will also offer token holders different tools to get the most out of their activities. Connecting wallets and secure communication are just the tip of the iceberg. For more information on the “Why" of SPKZ, read this article or join our conversation here.
Crypto communities need a decentralized communication platform. Same as NFTs are evolving rapidly, communication needs to keep up the pace.
Better communication doesn’t only lead to more vibrant communities in general, but it also paves the way for newcomers to learn and feel safer.
We’re far from 2017. Even the 2020 DeFi Summer feels like a distant past. It almost feels like as soon as we publish this article, it will be dated and we’ll have a good nostalgic laugh. But regardless of how things develop in the crypto space, communication will forever remain at the heart of a community.