May 18, 2022 - Economy & Business

Aave’s Social Media Fix

Illustration of a surprised looking emoji being turned by a wrench

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Aave Companies, the shop behind a protocol built for crypto lending and borrowing, wants to fix social media.

Driving the news: Lens Protocol launched today on Polygon’s blockchain, inviting developers to build social media apps, marketplaces and recommendation engines that could provide a new decentralized alternative to the social media behemoths.

  • Friendly reminder: Polygon is a layer-2 blockchain that processes transactions faster than Ethereum and has lower gas fees, which could theoretically better enable on-chain app development.

Why it matters: The promise of Web3 is moving from a system in which web hosts and platforms have authority over user-generated content to a system where users can wield more power because their identity and content can be cryptographically identified.

The intrigue: Elon Musk’s public bid to buy Twitter is reinvigorating crypto industry leaders to take aim at social media as it did with finance.

  • FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried recently said that he wants to discuss Twitter with Musk, bemoaning Big Tech’s grip on social media and calling the status quo a "broken model."
  • Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has been vocal about Ethereum’s use-case beyond DeFi such as social media.

Details: Lens has been building buzz for a while, starting with a 2021 letter advocating for social media users to own their content. Now, users who “signed” the Lens Open Letter with their wallet address will be allowed to mint and claim their Lens NFT profiles.

  • At launch there were more than 50 apps powered by Lens and some 30,000 “signers” of the letter, according to Aave.
  • It’s not exactly decentralized yet. Lens Protocol is overseen by a multi-signature wallet, but plans to move toward a community-owned model via what they call “progressive decentralization.”

Flashback: Aave founder Stani Kulechov has been hinting at a blockchain-driven solution to what he views as social media’s ills, including that “existing platforms suck” and “low quality of discourse.”

What they're saying: “2021 is ripe for decentralized social media,” Aave founder Stani Kulechov, on Twitter.

  • It's worth noting that this is hardly the first crypto social network. Examples include Hive and Cent, which are small but still going. There's also been huge bids that made little impact, such as Block.One's original version of Voice and the notorious BitClout.

Our thought bubble: Easier said than done. There have been many previous attempts to improve on social networks, but the struggle to scale is real.

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