Decentralized memberships

November 22, 2022

The arrival of Elon Musk as Twitter’s new CEO has been a watershed moment in the history of Twitter. The company became private again, he fired thousands of employees and thousands more have decided to quite after the first few days of erratic management. Many advertisers have suspended their ad budgets and many users have gone to look for greener pasture.

Of course, I am excited to see the idea of federation finally reach the twitterati as a viable option for a better decentralized ecosystem. It is sad that it took one Elon Musk for many people to realize how fragile the social network ecosystem has been for 10 years.

However, I would like to propose another complimentary approach to the fediverse because federation. The focus of ActivityPub has been on “content” with the idea that it needs to flow to and from users, and users themselves should not have to “move”. The most frequent way of thinking about federation is like email: I am able to send you an email from my email server, to your email server, without you and I having to worry about which server the one uses. It’s obviously very powerful for “basic” communication where applications agree on a lowest common denominator when it comes to content. This federation approach is also the approach taken by RSS/Atom feeds, WebSub, and several other Open Web approaches.

In the federation world, there are multiple gatekeepers and anyone can become their own, but most people will likely sharecrop on some else’s server… in a situation that ends up being not very different from what happens in the monopolistic social network.

Can we do better?

For better or worse, the blockchain world has opened the doors to a whole new model: one where the applications (called smart contracts) are running on a shared infrastructure. It becomes possible to build the same kind of experience that monopolistic social networks offer, because everyone uses the same “server”, but the decentralized nature of the blockchain means that nobody can realistically modify the behavior at the expense of others.

Similarly to the Fediverse approach though, there can be an unlimited number of applications (clients) interfacing on the protocol and leveraging it without requiring any extra step from users, outside of asking for authentication. What’s more interesting is that these applications do not have to interroperate: they can work on their share of the data without “hoping” that other applications will display it correctly.

What do I mean? Earlier today, I deployed a membership contract, using a very basic application that the tean at Unlock built: Flocker. This application lets anyone deploy a membership contract in seconds on the Polygon blockchain.

You can claim one of the free memberships by clicking here and you can only read the rest of the article if you go through that process! It’s free and should take you less than 30 seconds!

The rest of this post is for members only!

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