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Cointelegraph spoke to Ned Scott, Steemit Founder, about the company’s new roadmap, the lessons from the hack, fake news, censorship and the future of media.
The current business model of social media doesn’t extend profits to the creators of the content. Besides, it is susceptible to censorship, as actors with enough power can exert pressure to block users or content that they don’t like.
“The mainstream media has lost power recently thanks to free speech enabled by the Internet,” explains Dan Larimer, Co-Founder of Steemit. “Fake news frequently circulate our media feeds, causing platforms and outlets to lose value and power. In response to this, they are proposing censorship as the solution, yet censorship does not give people the opportunity to think for themselves.”
The power to censor, in his opinion, is perceived by the masses as the power to manipulate. Fake news also has the power to manipulate the reality of anyone who fails to consider all options.
The Blockchain is able to significantly reshape the industry and benefits of it are becoming more and more obvious. It comes right in the center of the problem allowing to build a decentralized, censorship-resistant, open, honest and transparent platform – the haven for journalists, bloggers, artists and creative content producers.
Steemit is set out to fix two main issues that exist nowadays in social networking websites: to enable content creators to profit from their creativity and to secure the freedom of people to share ideas without risk of censorship.
For that purpose, Steemit has built a robust Blockchain database called Steem, which distributes rewards in cryptocurrency with real value to the users who bring the best content - articles, commentary, images and videos - to the platform.
It brings a new economic model to the table. As described by Ned Scott, company’s founder, the model is a “sort of a fountain of youth, similar to the mining rewards of Bitcoin, rather than a tipping or revenue sharing model.”
Steemit users are rewarded by the Steem Blockchain itself, as it tallies posts by their votes and then rewards the best poster and voters accordingly. As a result, Steemit can be an ad-free, decentralized social media platform where anyone can get rewarded by posting or finding good content.
“Steemit differs entirely from social media giants like Facebook, Reddit and Twitter because it is public and decentralized,” Scott continues. “We see this as the absolute future of social media and mainstream adoption is coming faster than we could have imagined.”
2016 was an eventful year for Steemit; the company recorded a similar growth trajectory to the early days of Facebook and Reddit, attracted over 120,000 users and almost a million monthly unique visitors. The team has gone from seven people composed of three front-end developers, two back-end developers, and two founders to a team of 15.
“We intend to increase that headcount, further, adding additional staff around site design and development, DevOps scaling and site reliability, product leadership, user experience and interface design, mobile application development, community outreach and user understanding marketing, traffic insights, retention and audience growth,” says Scott.
However, there was one daunting event that brought a little bit of confusion to both the company’s team and users. The company endured a hack in July 2016. Luckily, it was not a major one only less than a hundred accounts were compromised and only a small amount of Steem was taken and the company reimbursed every affected user.
“It was actually a blessing in disguise,” assures Scott, “because we built an industry-first account recovery system based on real-world relationships, decentralized trust and community confirmation, rather than reverting to a system of breachable private keys.”
“2017 is going to be an incredible year for Steemit, the Steem Blockchain and the company itself,” reveals Scott. “We are excited to present our plans for the year ahead, which is not just a list of features to be rolled out each quarter, but a public set of promises for our burgeoning community.”
As a part of its plans, Steemit is to automate the deployment of their software into Amazon Web Services, the world’s largest hosting provider.
The use of a self-healing, automatically expanding and contracting pool of services provides high availability (HA) in the event of any system failures or disasters, ensuring no single points of failure (SPoFs) in the supporting services for the public-facing website. This will allow the team to focus more on the development of the software and community, rather than on scaling or maintaining servers or hosting infrastructure.
The website will get a significant upgrade improving its aesthetics and functionality. A number of new features are to be added, including a free 'drag and drop' image hosting, comment moderation for post authors, community namespaces and moderation- similar to subreddits, achievements- similar to video game milestones, user insignia, mobile notifications and an easy to navigate status bar.
By the end of this year, Steemit also plans to launch a parallel Blockchain architecture system called Fabric, also known as Fully Asynchronous Blockchain Rendering with Independent Conformity, to enhance scalability.
“The architecture system will set the groundwork for our long-term growth and at the same time, dramatically enhancing scalability, performance, fault isolation and modularity,” explains Scott. “We’ve been calling it a fabric and essentially multiple Blockchains can be created, each handling separate features within the Steemit platform, nullifying any risk of a Blockchain bottleneck due to single core processing demands.”
Each component Blockchain can operate on its own processor core or even its own server. This allows all of the Blockchains in the Fabric to use the same design set of witness nodes to produce blocks, Steem and Steem Dollar tokens, user account identities, and so on.
In addition, Steemit is to launch a mobile application. “We wanted to first build the Steemit platform where seamless functionality and exponential popularity were the two requirements for validation,” says Scott. “We achieved this and wanted to do so without risking a “rushed” mobile app. Now that the Steemit platform and the Steem Blockchain is operating extremely effectively, we can commence work on building native Steemit mobile apps for Apple and Android.”
The timing couldn't be better indeed. In November last year, it was recorded that mobile Internet usage surpassed desktop usage, meaning that more people browse the Internet on their smartphones than they do on their computers. This tipping point, as well as community demand, reinforced company’s decision to build a great mobile experience for the growing list of Steemit fans.
“Our intent is to develop our mobile experience and build feature-rich, native applications for both platforms efficiently by sharing as much of the codebase as possible between the two,” clarifies Scott. “Our research into the available developer tools for such reuse results in our belief that 80 to 90 percent of the code will be shared, requiring us to rewrite only a small fraction of the application in native Objective C (for Apple iOS devices) and native Java (for Android devices).”
Over the past 24 months, there has been an explosion of new market applications from Blockchain innovators.
Blockchain is becoming the driving force behind more cost-effective, faster and simpler solutions for real world problems. The scope of integration of this magic tech is increasing. The Steemit team loves the idea of censorship resistance and incentivizing new behaviors.
Scott sees Blockchain tokens as “game-ifying models we use on a daily basis.” Considering the scope of its development, he believes that Blockchain technology will be permeating many industries but the top three that will get the most of it are social media, financial services and insurance.
Steemit has been working to support entrepreneurs building third-party apps. Thus, third-party applications that wish to integrate with the Steem Blockchain are able to do so easily via existing tools.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs are beginning to build side apps off the Steem Blockchain. “We are encouraging it through building our thriving community and enhancing the foundation of others. We are changing the way people use and think about the Internet,” concludes Scott. “You can check some of them out at steemtools.com.”
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