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Blockchain: comparison of social networks, their problems and solutions

An opinion held about someone acts as proxy for our brain to judge the quality of the content they will produce. Reputation is thus, what social networks aim to simulate.

Voting-based social networks, such as Hacker News and Reddit, allow pseudonymity and measure this reputation earned based on votes but the karma earned cannot be carried forward or used. Systems like Stack Overflow thus try to build an economy around the content & reputation information generated by its own users.

Contrary to these are systems like Facebook and Twitter that emphasize reputation by attaching it to the real world identity of the user. The partial system of measuring reputation, such as likes collected, are not usable either. Further these systems are proprietary in nature, locking in the data that users produce and selling off user’s attention.

Blockchain entrepreneurs have understood these problems and have made various attempts at trying to solve these problems by decentralizing various aspects of publishing.

Systems such as ChangeTip and ZapChain have tried to award bitcoins instead of votes. But users of such systems want to earn more than they want to spend. Economic activity dies down over time - both of these systems are now closed. A similar project, Yours, is yet to launch but it seems that it will face the same problem.

Others tried to decentralize the data-storage aspect of publishing by attempting to store data on the blockchain such as Alexandria, or using distributed databases such as Akasha that uses IPFS, whereas some like Steem use both. In such systems users bear the burden of storing data for using the system since fee analysis shows that blockchains are not free databases.

Furthermore, systems like LBRY, Decent, JoyStream use bittorrent protocols to distribute content to be hosted by the users & lets others charge for it. Although this is better than storing data on the blockchain, yet still run into storage issues over time. But an even bigger problem in such systems is determining the price that must be paid for a content.

The bitcoin protocol offers a solution to this issue by providing a valuable lesson that the price of a rare token can be determined automatically with the free market trade & provides a mechanism to create such tokens.

Most of the systems described above and others, all have their own blockchains with unique coins that does help determine the true value of these systems as percieved by the free market. The problem then, is with the distribution of coins created.

All proof-of-stake based blockchains face this problem while even some proof-of-work systems use tactics to mine unfairly. Some have even gone as far as to publicly admit accumulation of coins to be distributed to content creators effectively reducing these systems to a ponzi scheme for investors.

A transparent proof-of-work blockchain based content publishing platform that uses distributed data -storage can work out. But the distribution of coins still affects these systems because a fair mechanism for content-ranking and reputation measurement is required and distributed storage might still run into censorship problems with controversial data. Some systems try to build liquid- democracy based systems but a system with delegates runs into problems with minority representation. Others try to distribute reputation based on various aspects of the social graph but the edges on someone’s social graph are binary – someone is your friend or not – which cannot represent the weight . Systems such as Synereo assume a centralized method for forming social graphs (while having other problems with identity & coin-distribution as discussed earlier.)

Respectonomy modifies the bittorrent protocol to only host content with users that endorse it; when users ‘share’ a content they become a seed in a sub-network of only those respectonomy users that have shared that content. Thus, only the supporters of a content bear the burden for hosting it.

While downloading from someone, a user can see descriptions to other files that the uploaders might be hosting and thus this sub-network also acts as recommendation engine by measuring the frequency & nearness of other data, and because content downloading is paid for, the seeds act as curators. The ‘shared’ content then becomes a locally hosted curated list which the users earn from by hosting. To fairly determine the price for such exchange respectonomy deploys its own blockchain where the flow of the token ‘respect’ dynamically determines the value of content exchange. This mechanism of tracking data in an isolated network helps fight censorship by replicating the data globally & data being available until anyone in the world is willing to host it.

Respectonomy server in itself is just a mining pool, which others can freely clone and run, and the system has no concept of a signup. The code is completely browser based that connects to other browsers without a central server and performs all actions based on user’s addresses being tracked on a blockchain. All activities are observed via monitoring transactions which makes it expensive to spam & troll due to network fees & offloads the problem of controversial content to the discovery problem. Thus controversial content remains hosted on its isolated sub-network and someone has to discover it and willingly download it by paying for it. This is also necessary because what is controversial for a majority might be necessary for a minority. The site mines just enough ‘respect’ such that its expenditure introduces a built-in latency that does not affect humans but charges the bots to tap the firehose.

Respectonomy provides a layer for anyone to build bots on, that can crawl user’s data by paying them for it and bots can earn by providing services. Advertisers then effectively become special kinds of bots that instead pay users to modify their hosted data. This has an added benefit that ads always appear as recommendations rather than polluting the content stream.

When users like a content, they pay ‘respect’ to the oldest record of that content in the blockchain. Since pirated content will have a different record it becomes a problem. If we aim to solve it using some algorithm, even a bit of information changed in a file changes its records but it could either mean piracy or creation of new content – for example changing a single character in a code could mean new code. Also what some people might consider curation, such as a collection of songs, could mean piracy for others. Labelling something as ‘pirated’ is thus a subjective opinion. Thus, an algorithm cannot determine whether a content is pirated but respectonomy provides tools if a community effort wants to recommend original content to others downloading the pirated copy. The original content creator can assign special benefits to community for this effort & since everything happens through transactions, it is an immutable record of people who bought your song for example. The transactions sending money to the address associated with that content’s fingerprint then can have special use-cases such as access to a concert. Money sent to pirated copies will not have this benefit whereas the downloader would also have spent equivalent amount for it. This mechanism drives the price based on rarity of content.


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Vendredi 3 Février 2017