Sep 20, 2022 - Economy & Business

MeWe to join Project Liberty's internet protocol

Illustration of a series of blocks that are connected to each other by lines moving around.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

MeWe, a free and subscription-based social media platform that bills itself as a privacy-focused alternative to Facebook, is migrating its entire platform to a blockchain-based, decentralized web infrastructure backed by billionaire Frank McCourt's Project Liberty venture.

Why it matters: With 20 million users, MeWe becomes the first major social network to migrate its tech over to Project Liberty's decentralized social networking protocol (DSNP).

  • "This is huge validation of the project," McCourt told Axios. MeWe's shared values around privacy and user control "was a big reason why we agreed to go forward with MeWe."

Catch up quick: McCourt launched Project Liberty last year with over $150 million in personal investment. He's looking to raise another $150 million.

  • In addition to building out a new governance structure for the web, Project Liberty is also building a blockchain-based public web infrastructure that's meant to facilitate social networking.
  • Most blockchain technologies are built for financial transactions, said Braxton Woodham, Project Liberty's tech lead. "Social networking is very different dynamics."

Details: MeWe will migrate all of its backend tech over to the new DSNP infrastructure over the next six quarters, its chairman and CEO Jeffrey Edell told Axios.

  • Its users will be able to transition to the decentralized system in 2023. The new system will offer users new features, including a secure, password-free sign-in option.
  • Before making the decision, Edell said he surveyed MeWe's user base to ensure they would be supportive of the change and they largely supported the idea.

Be smart: The commercial arrangement to move MeWe over to Project Liberty's web platform follows a new $27 million investment round in MeWe led by McCourt Global, McCourt's private company. McCourt Global put $15 million into the round.

  • Edell said he'll use the money on marketing awareness to drive more users to the new platform and to redesign the social network for its new home.
  • Today, MeWe says it has around 20 million registered users, with tens of thousands of paid subscribers. MeWe offers users a more robust experience for $4.99 monthly, or $29.99 annually.
  • Edell said he hopes to double the platform's user base in the next year. Currently, there are 610,000 groups on the platform.

The big picture: MeWe is one of several alternative social networks that have gained traction as more users become skeptical of Big Tech.

  • Edell noted that in moving to a public web infrastructure, one in which the rules of engagement are controlled by the users, not a big company, "is really what we're about."
  • MeWe insists it's politically neutral, but like many free-speech platforms, its app became a home for conservatives who felt disenfranchised by traditional social media companies following the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Yes, but: Project Liberty's DSNP internet protocol will only be as strong as the user base that governs it.

  • While MeWe is a large platform compared to some apps, the vast majority of the internet's social media networking ecosystem still runs on web platforms owned by a few giant companies.

What's next: Project Liberty is currently in talks with other apps to join the platform, McCourt said.

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