Facelift: How Decentralized Social Networks Could Make Crypto Cool

Social networking has become ubiquitous throughout much of the world but introduce decentralization, and the traditional network becomes something unrecognizable.

The prosaic notion of an ‘egalitarian’ social network, where each user both controls and feels their power within it, on the surface fits well with the notion of decentralized technologies – the blockchain, decentralized ledger and cryptocurrency. Although the latter has only existed in the mainstream for six years or so, in 2015 decentralized networks are already making this notion a reality.

Social networks used throughout the world – notably Facebook – tend to use advertising as their major source of revenue. Advertising manipulates users and gathers information about their lifestyles, and is in turn tied to fiat currency, which allows the network to continue operating. The manipulation element is key: users sign up to the network, which then uses their habits to generate revenue, while keeping them on the network through targeted advertising and by giving them a freely customizable interface which lets them feel ‘in control’.

This mechanism of manipulation is one aspect of Facebook’s operation, in particular, which has generated criticism. Other aspects are notably the selling of user data to third party companies – a security issue, some would say – and the associated infringements on an individual’s privacy this involves.

A social network built on principles of decentralization, where each user (or node) can manipulate the network to achieve a desired, purely social goal, at once appears to be a polar opposite of the advertising-based model.

While such an undertaking, and making it popular, is no easy feat, the few projects now emerging have huge ambitions.

ToshiDesk, a user-centered ‘social trading network’ who