By Frederik Bussler
Currently unfolding news reveals that millions of Facebook users were unwittingly targeted and psychologically manipulated by a data firm, Cambridge Analytica, for the purpose of impacting election results. The resulting scandal has angered countless users, and rightfully so, opening a space for viable alternatives to Facebook to be created.
The Facebook scandal reveals underlying problems with Web 2.0 (the Internet we know and love – institutions and services like Google, Amazon, Spotify, and Facebook). Currently, the web is centralized: Corporations own your digital identity, so they can (and do) sell your personal data to advertisers, politicians, and bad actors. These companies are so massive that they have all the money, talent, and data, so there was no room for competition, stifling the democratization of the online economy – until the Blockchain.
New services on the Blockchain will solve these problems, giving the power back to the people, and away from exploitative corporations. Rather than corporations governing the social media platforms, applications on the Blockchain allow for decentralized, peer-to-peer social networks, governed by the users. As the users themselves now govern the platform, the incentive for user manipulation through targeted fake news disappears. We now have the opportunity to develop an equitable online nervous system, with Blockchain services in every field.
While these ideas may sound like a far-off dream, they’ve already been put into practice. One example is Steemit, a growing social media platform where content is stored on a Blockchain and users are rewarded with tokens. Another example is Mastodon, a version of a “user-owned Twitter.”
Web 2.0 is based on competing for user attention, which doesn’t have the best outcomes for society. Cal Newport, author of “Deep Work”, noted that Facebook and other social media platforms are designed in part by “attention engineers,” using the same techniques that casinos use to create a highly addictive product. Decentralized applications on the Blockchain would not have to compete for our attention, resulting in a more savory experience and social ecosystem.
And let’s not stop at just Facebook – new self-sustainable businesses around decentralized applications on the Blockchain are the future in every conceivable domain. This is Web 3.0, and the reason for a growing 300-billion-dollar cryptocurrency market. The institutions these startups are competing against are worth trillions and will have to adapt or be replaced.
Blockchain developments and the success of cryptocurrencies are inextricably tied. Most decentralized applications have internal cryptocurrencies in order to keep the networks running. As these applications take off and adoption increases, the cryptocurrencies will rise in value.
2018 has been an unprecedented year for Blockchain development. Decentralized applications communities are popping up around the world. Higher education leaders are already offering programs in Blockchain, such as the “Oxford Blockchain Strategy Programme” launching on May 9, 2018. Also, online communities like “The School of AI” are reaching thousands of developers to create a synergy between AI and Blockchain. With a populace ready to embrace alternatives and developers ready to tackle a new Internet, the time is ripe for change.
These students and developers are building distributed trust systems in everything from decentralized chats and social networks to decentralized banks. Programming languages specifically designed for Blockchain development, including Solidity for Ethereum, are evolving daily and becoming more robust.
The strong fundamentals, mainly a growing developer community, user adoption, and societal acknowledgement and acceptance, are making the long-term outlook for Blockchain and thus also cryptocurrencies more bullish than ever.
Frederik Bussler is a Data Analyst, Data Analytics student at Champlain College, Data Analytics Intern, and Blockchain Developer.