Bitcoin SV-Backed Twetch is the Way Forward Out of a Broken Status Quo in Social Media
While increasing amounts of attention is being paid to data gathered via social media platforms, including who it is being sold to and where it ultimately ends up, there isn’t as much talk about alternatives. Social media is free to use, and some level of data collection and sale is to be expected. That’s just the way it is and always will be, or so is often assumed.
“All social media is wrecked,” says Josh Petty, CEO and co-founder of Bitcoin SV powered social media platform Twetch.
“Whether it’s email, chat or using social networks, everything you do online is creating information. Social media companies are getting this data and they’re selling it in one way or another, and as a user, you don’t see anything in return. That’s exactly what we’re trying to address with Twetch.”
Consider this: the assumption that social media needs to be free means that there are no barriers to entry. In some ways, this has been good. But without any requirement that a social media user be invested in the platform they are using, there is little incentive for users to act responsibly. Trolls run rampant, polluting whatever social media circle they are able to infiltrate without incurring any costs.
On top of that, the data which is being generated by users and shared across the network is typically hosted and owned by the platform itself. Not only are the users themselves unable to take any ownership of what happens to that data after it is released into the ether, the existence of that data is forever dependent on the continued operation of the service. Consider the millions of profiles and interactions that get lost any time a popular social media platform like Bebo or MySpace collapses or otherwise reinvents itself. The data that has been contributed by the user is usually lost forever.
Blockchain technology, and in particular the unique characteristics of Bitcoin SV, hold the answer to these problems.
With blockchains being public, transparent ledgers of transactions, entrepreneurial minds are beginning to realize the potential this holds for social media. What if everything that happens on a social networking platform – every tweet, every like, every post – actually takes place on a social media blockchain? This would not only allow total transparency regarding who owns the content produced for social media, but it would also allow that content to be monetized by the users themselves.
Prior attempts at using Blockchain technology to begin this overdue paradigm shift have been limited by Blockchain’s own incumbents – the likes of Bitcoin Core – whose underlying infrastructure cannot support the transaction volumes required to run a social media platform.
“We had the idea of building an application like Twitter on the blockchain for many years, but there was just no blockchain that was capable of scaling or doing the things that we needed it to do – in particular, micropayments,” says Billy Rose, CMO and co-founder of Twetch.
Bitcoin SV is unique in specific ways which enable the new paradigm. Bitcoin SV’s core ethos are speed and scalability. Transacting on the Bitcoin SV blockchain is cheap, and will remain cheap even if platforms continue to grow in users and transaction volume.
Low transaction costs are a pre-requisite to the information economy envisioned by the likes of Petty, and for that reason, its vision would not be able to be realized on another platform.
Enter Twetch, a new social media platform untethered to the typical notions of what social media needs to be. At first glance, Twetch functions a lot like Twitter, but in reality, Twetch is fundamentally different.
All interactions that occur on the platform are pushed directly to the blockchain: the ‘twetches’ (tweets) and ‘branches’ (retweets), as well as all of the subsequent engagement with those twetches and branches all happen on the Bitcoin SV blockchain.
This means it enjoys the same permanence and transparency that comes with that technology. The collective time and effort that users invest in the platform need not vanish if the service comes to an end: if those interactions are simply a part of the blockchain’s permanent ledger, then they won’t be lost at all. More than that, control over that data stays with the user rather than vanishing down a long chain of data purchasers and sellers.
“In its current form, it feels a lot like Twitter. But when you post, it’s being posted to the Bitcoin SV blockchain – the data is actually hosted there – so you can access and take that data with you.”
And with control and ownership comes profit. On Twetch, users must pay a very small amount to post and interact with the posts of others.
“When somebody interacts with the information that you post, you’re earning. Using microtransactions, when you post something, it might cost you a penny or two to make that post. But, if somebody likes your post, or they share it or reply to it, they might pay a penny or two to make that interaction, so you’re earning back the pennies you paid to post that initial information,” explains Petty.
This concept seems radical, until you consider that the information being posted to incumbent social media channels is already being sold – just without the knowledge of or benefit to the original creators – the users. Compared to the current practice of user data being sold to the highest bidder, often under a shroud of secrecy, the microscopic costs to the user for engaging on Twitch are just that – microscopic.
“At Twetch, we think that people are willing to pay for privacy. The more people who start to realize that everything that they post on Instagram – any picture or photo – could be put up on a billboard by Instagram and the user would earn nothing for it, the more I think that people will come around to our way of thinking,” says Billy Rose, CMO and co-founder of Twetch.
“All of this valuable information is just given away for free, with only the platform profiting. I think that as people become increasingly accustomed to the idea of paying very small amounts for things that they do on the internet; it will open up opportunities for new online business models.”
This is what Bitcoin SV has been used to achieved with Twetch. And so far, the benefits have been enough to draw in new users and content creators wanting more control over their creations. Twetch’s 10,000 plus active userbase includes the likes of actor Danny Trejo and director Eli Roth.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest from people who create on the internet – artists, designers, photographers and even some big actors and directors,” says Petty.
“These types of people joining the platform – firstly, I think they’ve very entrepreneurial and I like that they’re willing to experiment – but I think that they understand that they can’t monetize their followers and their audience directly.”
Given how well-travelled the area of social media design is, it would have been easy for Twetch to fall into the same patterns of design that we have grown used to seeing on the likes of Facebook and Instagram. But fundamental changes in the core mechanisms underpinning Twetch must be taken account of its design.
“Originally we built Twetch to be a mobile-first application – we prioritized it being mobile-friendly – but it left us with a desktop layout that was unideal,” explains Rose.
“Getting the desktop experience right is something that we’ve been thinking about for a while and wanting to get done – but get it done right. The idea was to create a full-featured social media application, that looks, feels, and works like a desktop application.”
“On the right side of the app, we experimented a little bit more and tried some new things. We created a quick search and notifications panel, as well as a leader board that contains the top ten people on Twetch – one list of those who have earned the most and one for those who have spent the most,” says Rose.
“What we’re trying to do is experiment with different ideas around how to find new people to get active on Twetch, as well as the ways which we can successfully identify the best and most-active users on the platform. Part of this is through exploring ideas around competitions and incentive mechanisms in order to create further activity on the platform and generate more transactions on the network.”
BUILDING THE NEW PARADIGM
As the core value proposition of Twetch is realised, its developers are keen to continue improving and refining the platform. Earlier this year, Twetch released /Pay, a P2P payment feature allowing users to pay one another using a simple command line.
“/Pay enables anyone to send and receive payments directly on Twetch. it’s like a terminal command, where you put /Pay and then you tag the person you want to pay, enter the amount, and then it instantly sends peer-to-peer digital currency between users,” explains Rose.
“It’s like integrating Venmo or CashApp directly into Twitter – or in this case – Twetch. It uses Bitcoin as the payment system, so whichever wallet you’re using is used directly to transact.”
Additionally, Petty and the team at Twetch see themselves as a part of a wider movement of innovation using the Bitcoin SV blockchain. That isn’t just talk: they released the Twetch software development kit for public use in an effort to grow the ecosystem surrounding Twetch and Bitcoin SV.
“We recently released an SDK and what that means is that users and developers on Twetch can use this to create different tools. These can be used to develop new tools for use on Twetch, but to be clear, it doesn’t need to be Twetch-specific,” explains Petty.
“Using the SDK, you could create all sorts of things: chatbots that automatically interact on Twetch, you could develop tools to schedule posts, or have bots that can play Twetch users at games. But there’s a lot of potential – and what developers can really get from this are the tools to build services like Twetch – where data is owned by the users and posted to the chain, enabling interactions involving transacting information or payments.”
The drive toward innovation is what inspired Twetch, is what has seen it grow in scope and popularity. It is that same drive that will carry it into the future – and, it is hoped, widespread adoption.
“I hope that in 12 months’ time, we’ve continued to grow to the point where we have a platform that is capable of handling the needs of millions of users. I think that within 12 months’ time, too, we could have one million users active on Twetch,” says Rose.
“In order to do that, we have to build an application that can move at the speed of light and is capable of handling that amount of data. For us, it’s a matter of having the time and getting it all done. We have everybody here that we need on our team, we’re sold on the vision and willing to work hard for equity in the company.”
Twetch has already surpassed the 1,000,000 transaction mark and has in excess of 10,000 active users – all while still in beta. While the likes of Facebook and Instagram continue to haemorrhage users, Twetch continues to soak up refugees from the status quo who might be surprised to find that a world where users own their social media presence, and can easily profit from its engagement with the rest of the world, already exists in Twetch.
This article has been published in accordance with Socialnomics’ disclosure policy.