Decentralized Social Graph - the Infrastructure for Web3 Social Network
The Web3 Social Network Narrative
I am bullish on the Web3 social network, not because those well-discussed reasons such as Web2 big companies take all the profit and Web3 bring a more equal distribution of power and value. I firmly believe all this reasoning is well-founded, but this is not the reason that attracts an average user. I am bullish on Web3 social networks because I can foresee immediate improvements in user experience by using the Decentralized Social Graph that is currently being built by various Web3 project teams. These improvements make social apps much more FUN.
What is a Social Graph
By the definition from Wikipedia, Social Graph is a graph that represents social relations between entities. It is a model or representation of a social network, it refers to the global mapping of everybody and how they're related.
Source: Tuten Giao
In Web2, the social graph is the network of connections and relationships within a social media network, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin. Each network has a different focus and is like a walled garden that holds the social graph within the network. The social graph is not portable. For each new social network application, users need to recreate their connection from the beginning.
Now, web3 makes it possible that there is only one social graph that is portable in any social network, in games, or the metaverse. The social graph exists on the blockchain level, not on the application level. You can connect to your network of friends in any application, no matter it is something like Twitter, Tiktok, Whatsapp, or World of Warcraft.
Several projects are working on the Social Graph area, most notably, Lens Protocol and CyberConnect. Lens Protocol is led by the AAVE founder Stani Kulechov, you can learn more about it in our article. Both projects are not a layer 1 or layer 2 blockchain and are also not applications directly facing users. They are data infrastructure and are designed for developers to build upon their decentralized social graphs. These protocols enable users to use one address to store all social network information and can be used in any application.
As illustrated below diagram, a Social Graph protocol is a data network layer between dApps and underlying blockchains.
How do they work?
The Functions are the basic elements of these social graph protocols. For Lens Protocol, functions include "Post", "Comment", "Share", "Follow", and "Collect". For CyberConnect, functions include "Follow", "Like", "Report", "Watch", and "Vote".
For example, when a user clicks the "follow" button in an application built on CyberConnect, this invokes the connect function in CyberConnect. The CyberConnect then generates and stores a derived key to authorize writing connection data onto IPFS and Arweave storage. Through these basic functions, a social network can be created for users, and applications built upon this social graph protocol will continue to add more connection data to the network as users continue to "follow", "share", "like", etc.
CyberConnect is the only protocol that has already an ecosystem of dApps built upon it, including social networking, NFT, as well as games. Users can authorize these dApps to access their social network from CyberConnect.
Lens Protocol focuses on the Web3 creator economy, enabling content creators to truly own their content and their followers. When we wrote the first article about Lens Protocol, it didn't has any live dApps. Since it launched on mainnet on May 18, now you can find 6 dApps built upon it from its website, although the user experience is still quite primitive.
CyberConnect and Lens Protocol are the most well-known projects in this area, but both have not issued their tokens and have not released detail of their tokenomics as well. However, there is another social graph project, called Subsocial, that is built for Polkadot ecosystem. This project has already issued tokens. Therefore, we could gain some idea from it for the potential tokenomics for CyberConnect and Lens Protocol.
Subsocial - Polkadot's Social Graph
Subsocial is a Polkadot project, it is launching a parachain named SubsocialX and is also building a standalone chain named Subsocial. The standalone chain and the parachain serve a different business purpose under the Subsocial project.
The architecture for Subsocial is similar to that of CyberConnect and Lens Protocol, it has building blocks including "Space", "Post", "Comments", "Upvotes", "Downvotes", and "Follows". dApps can use these basic blocks to create applications we are familiar with in Web2. For example, "Space" is similar to publication on Medium, and "Post" is similar to tweets on Twitter.
Tokenomics for Subsocial
Here the purpose is to gain some insights regarding what are the utilities of tokens for a Web3 social graph project. Therefore, I will focus on the utility side of tokenomics, that is why people will desire to hold tokens.
Firstly, it is a governance token that has voting power. Governance power alone doesn't generate too much demand. Some more interesting utility features outlined by the project include:
- Content creators to get their content prioritized ("advertising" in a sense)
- Get access to special contents
- Content Monetization, such as tips, subscriptions, selling or renting "Space"
To sum up, you need to spend the token in order to use Subsocial's service.
Spending Token v/s Holding Token
This is a common characteristic of Web3 projects' tokens, they are used inside the project's ecosystem as a medium of exchange, or put in another way, you need to spend those tokens.
However, this raises a problem, if a token's leading utility is for spending, then it cannot appreciate too much in value. Otherwise, the overall price of the service will become more expensive with the rising price of the token, and service providers that are using the platform need to adjust their service charges frequently.
In my view, the next major infrastructure to get more users into Web3 is the Social Graph projects, but there doesn't seem to be a good token economy design to capture more value. CyberConnect recently hinted at a possible $CYBER token offering, and I'm looking forward to a more creative token economy design.