“5 years from now, an entity wielding such immense power centrally - like Facebook - will simply not make sense to us.”
- Dor Konforty
Dor Konforty is the CEO of Synereo, a “next generation” decentralized social network that incorporates blockchain technology to overcome problems associated with centralized social networks such as privacy, security and commodification of users’ personal data.
Konforty is an expert on collaboration via the net, and the wisdom of crowds. He has a master’s degree in neurobiology from an interdisciplinary brain research program in Tel-Aviv University. He is also a graduate of the Israeli Air Force computer unit and has been heavily involved in cryptocurrency since early 2011.
Cointelegraph: What is Synereo, and could you briefly describe the concept behind it?
Dor Konforty: Synereo is a next-gen, fully decentralized and distributed social network designed for an attention economy. The fundamental assumption of Synereo is that users have full reign over their online social experience. Just as Bitcoin allows anyone to take complete control over their finances, bypassing banks, governments and any other central entity, so does Synereo allow its users to reclaim their social capital and use it as they see fit.
Synereo users run nodes on their own devices and connect directly to one another. User data is encrypted and distributed among the nodes, forming a “distributed cloud.” Data is redundantly saved, also flowing to where it’s most requested on the network, and is only accessible to those given keys to it.
CT: Why Synereo and not Facebook?
DK: Facebook was a necessary catalyst in the evolution of the Internet. It has gotten us to where we are today, where there are more than 1.5 billion social network users worldwide. This has a grand and positive effect on the way we communicate, organize and collaborate. Interpersonal communication has never been so easy and frictionless.
Synereo is the natural next step. The same philosophy underlying the creation of the Internet is the one that motivates us to create Synereo using technology that was simply not available even just a few years ago. It’s the concept of distribution: using technology to facilitate communications through new channels or for which a central entity was previously required.
It was hardly more than a couple of decades ago where only a handful of entities had the power to decide what would appear on your screens at home; nowadays, everyone has access to broadcasts from anyone else. A project like the Khan Academy, bringing education to hundreds of millions worldwide for free, was absolutely inconceivable back then.
With Synereo, we’re completely eliminating the need to rely on any central entity that may restrict your activity or communications in any way, direct your experience cynically to increase its profit margins, disclose your information to corporations or government agencies, or capitalize on the value you create online.
5 years from now, an entity wielding such immense power centrally - like Facebook - will simply not make sense to us.
CT: How is the AMP token used and why did you not use Bitcoin?
DK: AMPs can be used to amplify the power of information flow on the network. Investing AMPs in a post makes it propagate beyond its organic reach and increases it priority, making it more likely to appear in the stream of more users. Users seeing AMPed content in their streams receive a portion of the investment AMPs as compensation for their attention.
The AMP coin carries some properties that bitcoin doesn’t. For one, AMPs have an inherent value on the Synereo network, being able to “purchase” attention. Attention is - and will always be - a scarce commodity, and so there will always be a demand for it. AMPs also increase in effectiveness as the Synereo network grows, with each AMP allowing a post to receive more attention from more users.
“If the only way for cryptocurrency to become valued is in its relation to fiat currencies, then all the value has to be imported from the old economy.”
This is unlike bitcoin, which currently has mostly speculative value and that isn’t backed by anything outside of its users’ faith in it.
Another key difference is the way that new AMPs are created. We are implementing a “proof of social contribution” mechanism, whereby users on Synereo who garner a reputation as publishers of attention-worthy content are rewarded AMPs for their contribution. We believe that new value will be created on the Synereo network and that it makes sense to convert the wealth that a user brings to the network into a medium of exchange which does not trace back through a series of exchanges to fiat currency and to the fiat economy.
If the only way for cryptocurrency to become valued is in its relation to fiat currencies, then all the value has to be imported from the old economy. One thing, among many, that is vital for the shift to a better economic balance is an explicit mechanism for recognizing value created and value available in our new post-bitcoin ecosystem.
CT: How does Synereo implement the blockchain and is it used in your DEndron consensus-keeping mechanism? Will a bloated blockchain be a potential concern?
DK: Synereo relies on the bitcoin blockchain only for its AMP token, benefiting from its ultra-secure global ledger. All other features of the DendroNet do not require any sort of global consensus; there’s no type of information that has to be stored network-wide.
DEndron stands for ‘DEndron node-derived region of network’. Each user in Synereo only sees the region of the network derived by its node: what others nodes it’s connected to, what the parameters of these connections are, how information flows through that region, and where data relevant to that region (and shared with that node) is stored on the distributed cloud. Thus, each node has its unique view of the network and its topography.
This makes Synereo’s architecture much more efficient and scalable. With users only storing and seeing things relevant to their regions of the network, there’s no risk of forking, and nothing that could bloat.
CT: Are all users required to maintain a full node?
DK: Certainly not. While Synereo is a completely decentralized network, we understand that not everyone is able to deploy a personal Synereo node on their own computation device. To that end, Synereo will provide gateways that enable end users to use and enjoy the benefits of the network without having to run and maintain a node.
“Facebook cannot decouple your social experience from their capitalistic motivation: they owe it to their shareholders.”
Gateways don't control or have access to your information, and should they go down, the key they send you upon account creation can be used to boot up your node (with all of your information) immediately if you download a client and plug the key in.
CT: How does Synereo compare to Facebook, for example, as far as real social benefit or the well-being of the user?
DK: Facebook is concerned with the well-being of users only as far as it allows the greater monetization of them. Facebook cannot decouple your social experience from their capitalistic motivation: they owe it to their shareholders.
Such an approach to treating your users can only get you so far; to create a truly benefiting experience, to evolve what is achievable in a social setting online, the network and its users must be free to experiment in ways that are currently impossible on Facebook.
Can you imagine Facebook implementing a feature that would decrease their revenue by 5%?
Being unconstrained by financial desires, Synereo has a few key advantages in extensibility - the platform is open source and very modular; in the control users have over every aspect of their experience - we encourage you to tweak your stream to your liking without any constraint and provide powerful tools for the job; and in the freedom content creators receive - there’s no middleman enforcing rules or profiting from the creations you share on the network.
“Since a decentralized network lacks a central authority, value generated on the network may be distributed to the users participating in it.”
CT: You mention that the next generation of social networking will be built around Decentralization, Compensation, and Reputation. Could you expand on this idea?
DK: This is covered extensively in our blog, with the next part of the series to be released soon, so I’ll be brief.
Decentralization technology is the way forward. It’s the way most services are going to function in the future, to provide added efficiency, redundancy, privacy, and greater controls and freedoms to users.
Compensation is, in many ways, a product of decentralization. Since a decentralized network lacks a central authority, value generated on the network may be distributed to the users participating in it. Synereo takes this a step further: we think that it's not enough to cut users a check if that compensation doesn't provide some feedback and insight into the system so that users can optimize their participation in it.
Moreover, through the logic of this compensation mechanism, we’re hoping to align the interests of individuals with those of their communities.
The next generation of social networking is ultimately about building a framework for developing our identities as digital persons. Reputation is a major aspect of this and the cornerstone of the new economy facilitated by reliable, persistent online information; an economy where your online social influence, connections and trust - your social capital - matter just as much as the bitcoin in your wallet.
We're building a social network designed to give users the tools they need for managing their presence online the way it should be managed: by putting the user first.
If we truly are to push forward with the way we interact and organize ourselves online, we need to appreciate how decentralization, compensation, and reputation fit together as part of a comprehensive solution to our existing broken social networks.
“Diaspora is an attempt to decentralize a first generation network, and we're really thinking about the next generation of social networking.”
CT: How does Synereo compare to other decentralized social networks such as Diaspora?
DK: Diaspora was a great attempt at decentralized social networking. Its design is obsolete at this point, though.
There are a few major differences between Synereo and Diaspora that should be highlighted:
- Synereo is built with top-of-the-line encryption and privacy tools. Diaspora is decentralized but is still quite insecure; server owners have access to your information and may also control your participation in the network.
- Synereo is designed as a framework for managing the attention economy. Synereo optimizes your ability to achieve your goals, social or otherwise, by shaping both inputs and outputs of information in ways that reflect your own estimation of value.
- Synereo offers a straightforward and simple user experience and does not require technical know-how to participate in the network. The DendroNet does all of the heavy lifting in a way that is completely transparent to the user.
From our perspective, Diaspora is an attempt to decentralize a first generation network, and we're really thinking about the next generation of social networking.
CT: When is Synereo expected to release?
DK: We’re hoping to release a first alpha version to our close community members and contributors within a few months of our crowdfunding campaign, with the first public product to be released 9-12 months from now.
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