The primary aim of decentralized social networks is to give users the power to control their data and identity. Structural change and the ability to change services with ease is what decentralized messaging platforms help accomplish. To put it in simple words, a ‘decentralized’ network is independent of any single set of servers that a single company runs. Designing network approaches like the federated and peer-to-peer p2p social network protocols help in structurally empowering users.
Conventional social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram function via a client-server model. That is, the interaction between users is transmitted through the server of a single company. However, in the case of federated or decentralized networks despite server interaction, users get the opportunity to choose from more than one service provider. In this case, servers usually interoperate with other different networks.
The p2p social network do not distinguish between servers and clients. With these decentralized interfaces, it is possible for every user’s device to act as both. Therefore, they become functionally equivalent to peers.
What are Decentralized P2P Social Network?
Instead of using a business-owned centralized server, decentralized networks operate on independently run servers. One of the prime examples is Mastodon. It has its base on open-source software. Its operation is quite similar to a social network like Twitter. Steem is another example of a decentralized network that operates on social blockchain technology. These networks help promote transparency. Users can view data if connected to the network on a real-time basis.
What is decentralized social media?
One can understand decentralized social media as social networks with their basis on blockchain technology running independently of servers in contrast to the centralized ones. Generally, these decentralized networks are powered by distributed ledger technologies. Therefore, every activity of users gets recorded on a decentralized protocol.
In recent years, the term ‘decentralized’ has become very popular. Users can get a transparent, secure, fair network with such a platform. There is no central or single authority that holds or monitors all user data. Rather data sharing occurs through connection nodes over the network.
What are some old messaging networks?
Usenet can be conceptualized as a collection of several discussion groups. Every discussion group has a name along with several collections of messages. In addition, users can read and post articles (otherwise known as a collection of messages).
Fidonet is an email system that Tom Jennings developed in 1984. He is also the creator of Fido BBS. Initially, it was one of the first methods of transferring email systems across multiple BBSs. Also, in its days it was quite popular.
This networking system has its roots in several countries. With more than 10,000 FidoNet nodes worldwide, these networks are quite useful in providing email connections to the Internet.
Simply put, Fidonet is a message transportation and inter-connecting file system implemented by the bulletin board systems (BBSs). Although it still has its presence today, due to the lack of BBS system callers it has been facing some backlash in terms of its service. Therefore, unfortunately, several of its systems are getting closed.
- Bulletin Board System (BBS)
The Bulletin Board System or the BBS is an application that aims to share or exchange messages and files on a network. Before the arrival of the World Wide Web, the BBS was useful for posting simple messages or sharing files among users. However, in the 1980s and early 1990s, the BBS dominated the online community as the primary form of online communication.
Users can access the BBS through Telnet, dial-up modem or Internet. Due to its origin prior to the graphical user interface or the GUI, the BBS has a text-dependent interface.
However, the BBS has developed a new interactive; graphical user interface with recent advancements. Nevertheless, BBS-dependent users prefer to access the network through Telnet.
What are some of the famous secure decentralized messaging networks?
This is an open-source messaging application that users can access free of cost. ChatSecure uses OTR encryption over XMPP. Users can create a new account on a public XMPP server and connect to any existing Google account. Otherwise, users can opt for their own server to maintain extra security.
ChatSecure is completely interoperable with other platforms that support OTR and XMPP like Jitsi, Adium, etc.
This application lets users keep their interactions private as ChatSecure implements open-source cryptographic libraries. Many applications do claim end-to-end encryption. However, if you do not find publicly auditable source code and verifiable encryption, you do not know whether your data is truly safe.
Wickr is a promising messaging platform designed to offer users control and security. It is a trusted network and used by several world leaders, journalists, executives, celebrities, etc.
The team at this company has security and privacy experts who dedicate their efforts to building a strong social system worldwide. They aim to achieve this vision by providing users with a secure and private communication network.
- Blackberry Messenger
With Blackberry Messenger or BBM, the control lies with the users. Even when your information leaves your phone, control is still with you. Users can access BBM on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and of course Blackberry. This messaging network is popular for its secure message transactions. However, despite the advantages of the iPhone’s advent, Blackberry could not make it to the current trends.
Telegram focuses on the security and speed of messages between users. This application or platform is secure, simple, and super fast to use. Also, it is free of cost. Users can download Telegram on several devices. An impressive aspect of this platform is that it seamlessly syncs with all gadgets. Therefore, users can have it on their desktops, phones, and tablets.
With Telegram, sending and receiving an unlimited amount of messages, photos, videos, and files is possible. Any type of file whether .doc, .zip., pdf, and so on, Telegram does not discriminate. Also, users can create Telegram groups that allow 200 members.
Confide is almost like an off-the-record messenger. This platform has a combination of end-to-end encryption and disappearing messages coupled with screenshot-proof messages. Therefore, this application helps promote unfiltered, private, and efficient forms of virtual interaction.
Moreover, users can trust this platform as it has been featured in Forbes, Fortune, NYT, Bloomberg/BusinessWeek, Washington Post, and so on. Also, Confide is a platform implemented in more than 18o countries as a crypto messenger globally.
The emergence of decentralized social media
With the digital revolution and changing times, communication between people went through a drastic change. Mainly influenced by social media platforms, people now interact in a way different from the past. However, although such changes did bring in several beneficial aspects, they are not without any controversy. For instance, many subjects the spread of fake news to inadequate content moderation. Especially, what the world witnessed in 2020 soon after the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.
As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to a large extent, the excessive spread of this deadly virus was due to false news and online rumors. The extent of the spread of misinformation led many to consider the effective regulation of social media networking platforms.
COVID-19 is just an example situation that got aggravated due to the improper networking system. Even before, many have expressed dissatisfaction with fake news and its management by large corporations. Whether it is regarding politics, censorship, privacy, or malicious activity on the Internet, social media platforms play a crucial role.
These important concerns prompted social media consolidation. Overall, it led to the emergence of the present trend called decentralized social networks. With these federated networking systems, users can finally connect with others instead of relying on big corporations.
What are some important features of Decentralized Social Media?
Freedom of speech came under a potential threat with global censorship. It became challenging for users to share their opinions discretely and freely. The centralized networks leave little to no room for creativity. Also, it does not help in tolerating differences in opinions due to its homogenous nature. All of the centralized networking platforms look the same.
“The services are kind of creepy in how much they know about you,” says Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive about centralized networks.
On the other hand, decentralized social media platforms are independent of any central authority. These platforms are not under the direct control of any server. Therefore, as a result, users can have more privacy and security. Also, the lack of censorship allows users to express themselves freely. Decentralized networks are the best choice in oppressive situations, especially in countries or regimes. The reason is that these networks are not very easy to shut down. Even though they are less popular than the centralized networks, these federated networks possess some extraordinary features, likely making the transition smoother than expected.
The following are some of the features of decentralized social networks-
- No single central server
One of the most important factors about decentralized social media networks is that they are independent of any single central server. For example, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are some of the most popular social media sites, all centralized networks. That means they are dependent on a single central server. However, being dependent on a central server has many dangers. For instance, takeovers, large scale cyber-attacks, and information leakage top the list of perils.
- Hosts multiple networks within one platform
In comparison to centralized networks, decentralized ones serve a special function. These networks help users make their own choice. Users can build a network of their liking. Therefore, it helps people who have similar interests or simply put; like-minded people get to the interface. Furthermore, a decentralized network has the ability to host several kinds of social media simultaneously.
Users online have the power to develop an individual community. Hence, people with mutual interests can use this decentralized network to connect with each other.
Instead of using a single entity judgment, these decentralized networks use a system of governance. Users on this network can vote for issues they find to be relevant. They can voice their opinions and make others hear what they have to say. Abiding by the rules of a central authority is not the case for decentralized social media platforms.
- Increased Security
In contrast to conventional platforms that implement a single centralized server, a decentralized one uses various independent servers. One of the most common phenomena that several famous social media websites face is glitches and technical impairments. Using additional servers, decentralized networks are successful in reducing the likelihood of technical errors. Also, due to this clustered system, the extent of cyber-attacks also decreased.
- Increased User Control
One of the major challenges that centralized social media networks face is the lack of control over data. Ranging from censorship to content integrity, social media centralization led to several unwanted issues. One way out of these problems is through decentralized social networks. Users who want to escape from the shackles and restrictions of censorship can switch to decentralized networks. They help in resolving control issues and give authority to users to have power over their data and other private messages.
Users get to have full control over their own data, personal messages, interactions, and experiences.
Several users intend to switch to decentralized networks because they wish to protect their data and themselves from intrusive marketing strategies. However, these marketing and advertising strategies come with certain threats and dangers. Therefore, federated networks eradicate such means to make money. Instead, they use virtual currency like Bitcoin to operate.
As discussed earlier, Steem, a form of a decentralized network, pays its users via virtual currency.
What are some of the future trends of decentralized and p2p social network?
Censorship and algorithm biases are what users need to deal with when they work on popular social media platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Instagram. The government can censor the content you post and the platform can manipulate its algorithm. Therefore in simple terms, these big companies are capable of deciding where to direct the audience on their website/application.
The implementation of blockchain plays a crucial role in removing this bias. And therefore, it helps in redirecting social networks to peer-to-peer interactions. Hence, social media is bound to become transparent again.
With no central server, decentralized social media get to oversee the management of social networks. This is possible with the help of blockchain technology, unlike centralized networks like Facebook, which do not have control over all the content on their server.
The governments of different countries are aware of the social media platforms that users spend time on mostly. Therefore, they use this trend to share their political messages. Some of the applications offer end-to-end encryption. However, they still produce metadata, which any third party can see and read whenever a message is sent/received. Speaking on a larger level, users seem to no longer have freedom of speech while using centralized social media platforms.
However, the implementation of decentralized networks makes it easier for users. No message actions can be linked to a single user. Instead of putting up their personal information, users get to have a code as their unique identifier on a decentralized network. It is up to the user to decide what information he or she wishes to share over the network.
The prevailing state of social media is quite worse. And the situation keeps getting worse. Social media platforms were initially designed to promote communication among people. However, today many feel social media has become a nightmare for them. Moreover, many seem to have turned against this platform due to issues like data theft, censorship, privacy violations, and security threats.
The prime example of these issues is Facebook. In 2021, Facebook’s disputed WhatsApp policy forced several users to look to alternative platforms. Many switched messaging applications to cope with privacy threats. Although Facebook is just one of the several platforms with centralization issues, users must be aware of similar threats on other platforms.
To Wrap Up
“Centralized technology creates choke points and attack vectors for third parties to exploit,” Zerah said, head of marketing at Status. “They become susceptible to financial exploitation and even blatant censorship.”
Social media disputes in the present can be subjected to modern-day communication networks being transformed into profit-driven enterprises. These companies seem to have lost their purpose. The huge database of their users seems like fuel to them which they do not hesitate to trade for billions of dollars behind closed doors.
However, one positive aspect of this problem is the emergence of promising alternatives like decentralized networks. And this has been possible thanks to blockchain technology! Future-oriented and blockchain-based decentralized messaging application is capable enough to eradicate several present social media issues.
Moreover, the open-source and trustworthy nature of these decentralized social media networks gives users a private, secure, and pleasant experience. And therefore, it won’t be wrong to say that a new paradigm of virtual communication is about to begin for all users!
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