Lens Protocol - A Decentralized Web3 Social Graph and Web2 Social Media Disruptor
We all know social media has exploded and controlled our lives over the last 20 years, with tech giants such as Facebook (Meta), Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok dominating our social connectivity.
With over 4.6 billion people using Web2 Social for personal and business use, it is no wonder these social media applications have built walled gardens around the user data that make up their social graphs.
Signing up for free always has a catch within the overwhelming amount of legal jargon that most users never read, and the amount of personal information handed over to these platforms is staggering.
Once you click the accept button, you become the product, and your next step provides valuable data for their revenue streams and centralized social graph.
However, since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there has been a lot of controversy over how they have exploited user data.
It begs the question: do you agree and accept ALL terms and conditions?
Still, we cannot deny that they have connected and entertained us in ways we never thought possible.
But with Web3 gaining momentum, the Aave team's version of a Web3-native social media platform is attempting to lead the way in how users interact with each other online and how they own, control, and monetize their data on a decentralized social media network.
Fueled by the advancements in blockchain technology, NFTs, censorship, and data privacy requirements, the Lens Protocol has set its sights on being the disruption to the centralized Web2 social networks we know and love today.
Table of Contents
● What is the Lens Protocol？
● The social graph
● Why use the Lens Protocol?
● The team behind the Lens
● Lens protocol goal
● Problem-solving with Lens
● Publication types and modules
● Web3 social media competitors
What is the Lens Protocol?
Lens Protocol is an open-source, decentralized base layer for the new era of Web3 social applications, allowing a more participative, privacy-focused, and community-owned social network built from the ground up. Therefore, it is a Web3-native social graph.
Built on Polygon's Green Proof-of-Stake blockchain, Lens is composable, immutable, and leverages the power of Non-fungible token technology, known as NFTs, with a slight twist being that the NFTs can also be dynamic.
Because it is the initial layer, users will have a one-profile-fits-all NFT that allows portability across all Web3 applications built on Lens.
Web3 has no official definition, but simply, it is the concept for a more user-owned World Wide Web.
A more in-depth explanation is that Web3 is a decentralized, trustless, permissionless, token-based economy built on the blockchain that embraces the technology behind cryptocurrencies and NFTs.
A social internet where user data is more private, more secure, and owned by the user on a public network, not by one centralized corporation.
The Social Graph
To understand more about Lens Protocol, we first need to understand what a social graph is.
A centralized social graph is the interconnections among people, groups, and organizations on a social network. The term also describes the individual's social connections. For example, Facebook is a centralized social graph.
As a diagram, it is a set of nodes or data points connected by lines (edges or interdependencies) representing the links between each node.
CEO of Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, first discussed the social graph in 2007. He was referring to the connections and relationships documented by Facebook members.
Facebook still owns the largest social graph to date, with over 2.9 billion users worldwide, followed by YouTube with 2.5 billion users worldwide (stats from Statista as of January 2022).
It is no surprise these social platforms do not share their social graphs.
A decentralized social graph is similar, except it is an open network allowing all its users to own and control their social profile data and it allows portability across social applications. None of the data is owned by any central authority or company.
Your profile and your content are owned and governed by you.
Why use the Lens Protocol?
Think about this:
You’re a successful Twitter content creator with more than a million followers, and you post daily content that is shared thousands of times.
You’ve monetized your profile through sponsored tweets, affiliate marketing, or sending traffic to your website, making Twitter your funnel and your business.
One day you post something a little more controversial, not illegal, but, for example, an opinion piece that may question or debate a current news affair. You take a break, and upon returning, you see an email from Twitter notifying you of your account suspension, and just like that, they have cut you off from your followers.
You scramble to get in touch with someone on Twitter, but the best you can do is try to appeal the ban and hopefully prove nothing was wrong.
No matter what you do in the short term, you’re already in Twitter jail, and for all you know, you’ve lost everything. Your brand, your following, your history, and your identity.
Adding to this, the reactivation process can be time-consuming and difficult. Depending on the banned content, you could still face a permanent ban and end up de-platformed, forcing you to start again.
There is no way to port your Twitter followers across to IPolygon's.
Considering this, we have seen a few accounts banned on Twitter. One of the more controversial ones, for example, is that of Donald Trump.
However, the perfect one for this article is the tweet that banned founder Stani Kulechov.
Although he meant this as a joke, Twitter banned his account and again showed the world what kind of power they hold over its user profiles. This is adding more fuel to the fire to further develop the decentralized social network.
Lens Protocol Team
Led by the team behind Defi lending protocol AAVE, Founder Stani Kulechov, and CEO Alexander Svanevik, are the great minds behind the Lens.
Problem-solving with Lens
The Lens Protocol solves a few problems in current Web2 social:
Decentralization for user data and ownership of your Web3 social graph
Content creator empowerment
Decentralization of user data and ownership of your Web3 social graph - With your minted NFT profile, you will own all your data. No entity or corporation can control it and you have the power over your profile.
This eliminates the need for separate social graphs.
Content creator empowerment - Content creators will own the links between themselves and their community, forming a composable, user-owned social graph.
Each follower receives a dynamic NFT granting monetization potential to the content creator and their following. This allows monetization opportunities that are not possible with Web2 social at the moment.
This brings peace of mind to the creator as they no longer have to worry about content removal, losing viewers, or being de-platformed because of policies, algorithms, and single entity censorship.
They can focus on giving followers, or fans, the best user experience they can offer.
Modularity - Built from the ground up with the Web3 movement in mind, developers can build apps focusing on creating the best frontend experience while the Lens team takes care of the backend. Developers don’t have to worry about scaling users because the user base will already be there.
Lens modules allow for new features and fixes without interrupting user experiences, user-owned content, and social relationships.
Portability - Because Lens Protocol is the base layer, users can port profiles to other applications.
Monetization - If you are an aspiring content creator, then the power of NFTs presents an opportunity to earn a decent income from your work. Collect modules will allow collectors to purchase your content for a fee.
Where Web2 uses you for monetization, Web3 can monetize for you.
Lens Publication Types and Modules
Publications and modules are the basis for how Lens Protocol will operate. It uses three publication types and three modules.
Post: The base object of a publication.
Linked posts to a Profile NFT ensure all content created by the user remains user-owned and stored in their wallet.
Comment: Comment types are publications with a few extra checks, and they have the collect and reference module capability.
They provide additional commentary on publications and live in the user’s profile NFT. In addition, comments can also be subject to conditions set out in the original publications reference module.
For example, the follower must own a follow NFT from the post's creator and this will allow the user to post a comment.
Mirror: Mirror types are the curation tool on Lens Protocol, which is equivalent to re-posting or sharing on Web2.
These are the same as publications with extra checks and a few minor features, and since they reference other publications, they are then also subject to reference module conditions
Mirror types do not have a collect module of their own.
Collect module - Collect modules allow for monetization of posted content. Profile NFTs can grant permission to followers, allowing them to purchase content.
When publishing a post to a Profile NFT, the profile can opt to set a collect module allowing users to mint the NFT that links to the publication.
Follow module - You will receive a Follow NFT for each profile you choose to follow, and creators or communities can encode different values into these Follow NFTs.
A particular follow module containing random logic can determine if a follower should receive the Follow NFT or not.
For example, you might have to pay a certain amount of Matic to receive a Follow NFT before you may follow that profile or community.
Follow NFTs have built-in governance capabilities, allowing communities to create social DAOs or voting strategies.
Reference module - These contain custom logic executed upon comment or mirror post types, and these modules can limit who can comment and interact with a profile.
Lens Protocols' fundamental concept behind modularity is to allow as much freedom as possible, allowing communities and developers to build new, innovative, and interactive mechanisms between social graph users.
There are already a few applications built on Lens such as Lenster, Lensfrens, Phaver, Alps Finance, Refract, Sepan, Iris, Clipto, and many others.
Web3 Social Graph Competitors
Lens Protocol is not the first attempt at a Web3 social graph, but they seem to have a lot more hype around them than some previous attempts. Below are just a few of their competitors.
BitClout (DeSo): Built on the Bitcoin blockchain and one of the first attempts at a decentralized social network.
Monaco Planet: A Web3 social network where you can read and display NFTs, aiming to lead the next generation of SocialFi.
Only1: Built on the Solana network, it allows creators to publish their content as NFTs and earn money by sharing and interacting with their followers. Both creators and fan users can earn rewards through social activity, and the project’s native token, $LIKE, can satisfy users’ needs to pay for NFTs and revenue mining.
It is exciting to witness all the developments on Web3 and now Web3 social.
Facebook was a game-changer for most of us, and one can only imagine that the hype building around Lens Protocol has the potential to be revolutionary for social media.
Though it might take some time for it to go mainstream, gaining over 36000 followers in a few months has already built excitement and curiosity about Lens Protocol.
People will continue to use centralized social media services because they are free, regardless of what they do with their users’ data, simply because it is convenient and the ease of already created network effects.
The hurdle Lens will face is that people might not want to pay for every interaction as a transactional post. However, Lens Protocol developers are working diligently to solve all onboarding hurdles.
Those that care about data privacy and ownership are optimistic that Lens can deliver and scale and it will be interesting to see how Lens will leverage Web3 technology to build a new decentralized Web3 social ecosystem!
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Written by: Tyrone Goodliffe and Amol Gharte from The Alpha Trades
References and further reading
The information provided above is not financial advice but for educational and entertainment purposes. Please do your own due diligence or consult a financial advisor before investing in any digital assets.
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