In a previous post we went over nine of the biggest names in social media platforms today, taking a look at what their core functionality and main features are, some of their controversies and criticisms and a brief glance at how users can monetize their content. Those nine platforms might be among the most well-known, but there are dozens of other platforms you can use. Some of these newer platforms are even decentralized and blockchain-based. Although a lot of people believe blockchains are only about cryptocurrencies, this isn’t true. Some blockchains have the capacity to execute more complex tasks. In this article we’re going to take a look at seven other social media platforms you can use and enjoy. Three of them will be “traditional” platforms and the other four will be blockchain-based. Let’s get started
Centralized Social Media Platforms
Medium is an online publishing platform. It was founded by Evan Williams (who had previously been one of the co-founders of both Twitter and Blogger) in 2012. Williams wanted to create a platform where writers could publish content without Twitter’s 140 character limit (currently 280 characters). Medium has become a social journalism platform, where both professionals and amateurs can create long-form blogs. The number of users on Medium isn’t really known, as the platform doesn’t provide any figures for number of writers or visitors, The last known numbers are from 2016, when they reported about 60 million monthly visitors.
Medium offers its writers a full WYSIWIG editor with rich text options for creating posts. There is no maximum length por posts. Once a post is published it is assigned to a specific theme. Unlike other blogging platforms, Medium doesn’t organize posts by user, but by topic. Users can share, recommend and upvote posts they enjoy. Users can opt in to a paid membership program that grants access to exclusive content and an improved bookmark system. Users can “clap” on posts they like (similar to a “like” on Facebook, except a user can give a post multiple claps) and the platform selects the best posts based on the number of claps they receive.
Unlike other social media platforms, Medium has a partnership program that lets users monetize their content earning rewards from Medium itself, rather than from letting ads run on their content. Medium distributes revenue earned from paid memberships to content creators based on how much reading time they have.
Quora is a question-and-answer social media platform that started operations in 2010. Quora’s development started in 2009 with a brainstorming session by former Facebook employees Adam D’Angelo and Charlie Cheever. Quora’s website became available to the public in June 2010 and grew very quickly. By December 2010 they were having problems handling all the traffic on the website. Quora is reporting over 300 million unique users per month as of 2020.
Quora’s core functionality is related to asking and answering questions, as well as commenting on responses. Any user can ask a question, and can even request an answer from a specific user who has shown experience in the area. Since its launch, Quora has received ample praise for the quality of the answers provided to questions, which frequently come from recognized experts in different fields of knowledge. Some famous people provide answers to questions on Quora in their areas of knowledge. These celebrities include people like Jimmy Wales, Clayton C. Anderson, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Originally Quora required users to register their accounts using their real-life names, but this requirement was lifted in April 2021.
Quora introduced a Top Writers program in 2012 to incentivize users who made valuable contributions to the site. Each year they chose about 150 people, who would receive compensation via invitations to events, branded clothing and/or books. The Top Writers program was discontinued for English in 2021, but is still available in other languages.
Viber is an instant messaging and voice and video calling platform. It was founded by Talmon Marco and Igor Magazzinik, two friends who met while in the Israel Defense Forces. It was originally launched for the iPhone in December 2010. Versions for Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, S40, Symbian and Bada were released in 2012. 2013 saw the launch of desktop applications for Windows, MacOS and Linux, versions for iPadOS and Apple Watch became available in 2015 and a Windows 10 app was launched in 2016. Viber has grown considerably since its launch, being especially popular in Asia, Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe. It’s more popular in Russia than Whatsapp and it’s estimated that 97% of smartphones in Ukraine have the app installed. Viber currently has about 1-1 billion registered users, with over 820 million active users each month.
Viber was initially a VoIP application, allowing free voice calls between users. Instant messaging capabilities were added in 2011. Stickers, push-to-talk, video calling, group chats and group calls were introduced in later versions over the years. The app is free to download and install, and creates accounts that are tied to the user’s mobile phone numbers. Desktop apps need to be activated using a mobile number, but can be used independently after activation. Users can easily switch between mobile and desktop apps, even while on a call. Besides the usual instant messaging capabilities, Viber has a feature called Viber Out, which lets users call landline numbers and mobile numbers that don’t have the app installed.
Viber is easy to use and has end-to-end encryption enabled by default on all calls and chats. Once installed, the app will scan your device’s main contacts list and add those who also have Viber to the app’s contacts. If you have friends in Russia, Ukraine, India or other parts of Eastern Europe or Asia, it’s likely you’ll find them there already. Viber has received praise for its security and versatility, but many users find the in-app ads too intrusive.
Blockchain-based Social Media Platforms
When the Ethereum blockchain launched in 2015, it introduced smart contracts into the blockchain world. Many smart-contract-capable blockchains have been launched since. Smart contracts allow programs to run on blockchains. The main differences between these newer blockchain-based social media platforms and the traditional ones are that they leverage the features of the blockchain to enable a whole new feature set. The other major difference is that all blockchains are powered by some form of digital token and that lets users tip or send coins to content creators directly, so the creators can start monetizing their content right from the start. There are several of these decentralized social networks around, but let’s take a look at four of the more well-known ones.
Steemit is a blockchain-based blogging-oriented social media platform. It was founded by Ned Scott and Dan Larimer as the first application running on the STEEM blockchain. There are currently about 1.3 million users registered on Steemit.
Creating an account on Steemit is free. Upon registering, users will receive several different passwords or “keys” to their account. Each key has a different set of permissions attached to it. For example, the Posting key is enough for creating posts and interacting with other user’s posts. But that key won’t let you withdraw funds from your blockchain wallet. You’ll need the active key for that.
As for the posts themselves, Steemit is oriented towards long-form blogging, with no character limit and can include images and video. Text in posts can be formatted using the platform’s markup language. Posts are organized into categories using tags, and adding at least one tag is mandatory for all posts. Users can “like” posts and tip the author using the platform's native STEEM token. Getting more likes on a post will earn the author higher rewards. Not all likes have equal value. As a user receives more likes and engagement on their posts, they increase in “STEEM power”, which increases the value of their likes and comments. Users can also earn “curation rewards” for being among the first to like posts that go viral later on.
Steemit is a good platform for those that enjoy long-form blogging and there are some creators that are writing very good content there. The posts’ reach is still limited because of the much smaller user base when compared to traditional platforms like Blogger or Medium, but there is the advantage of being able to earn rewards right from day one. The use of multiple keys for different actions can be confusing for new users, especially for those unfamiliar with how blockchains operate, but this level of security is necessary because a user’s account not only gives them access to posting their content, but to the funds stored in their wallet as well.
Dtube is a decentralized video sharing service created by Adrien Marie launched in 2017 on the STEEM blockchain, although it later moved to its own blockchain, called Avalon, which is powered by the native DTC crypto token. Think of it as a decentralized version of YouTube, although it is still far smaller, receiving about 800,000 visits per month.
Dtube differs from Youtube in several key aspects. Number one, YouTube is centralized, meaning all content is hosted on their servers. DTube is decentralized; there is no central server. Content on DTube is stored across many different computers, with no one machine having the entire video. Kind of like P2P storage services like Bittorrent. This makes content on DTube almost impossible to remove from the service and also keeps the service from becoming unavailable due to server issues. Second, there is no algorithm making recommendations and no censorship by a central authority. Recommendations are made strictly according to popularity among users. The more likes and comments a video receives, the more likely it is to be recommended. No censorship means that all kinds of content can be posted, including pseudoscientific claims, flat-earth theory, extreme right-wing and white supremacist content. Even NSFW content and they can all remain on the platform. The platform relies solely on user recommendations to keep this content out of the top spots. Another difference you’ll see immediately is that DTube doesn’t display how many views a particular video has, opting instead to show how much money each video has earned. There are no ads running on top of DTube videos (although creators can make sponsored videos, of course), so the revenue comes directly from interactions on the blockchain. 90% of the revenue is distributed to creators, with DTube retaining 10%. Finally, DTube users don’t even have to create videos to earn rewards. They can earn curating rewards or get tipped for commenting other’s videos.
DTube is an interesting platform, especially for those who feel YouTube’s policies or algorithms are censiring them unfairly. And for content creators in general who want to enjoy a more fair form of content monetization. But DTube does have its issues. For one, some users have reported the platform can be a bit laggy during video playback, but it’s still not clear if this is simply a software bug or an issue with the IPFS storage system. It’s reach is also far lower than YouTube’s; we’re comparing the web’s 2nd largest website with the 58,691st. It’s video search engine is still not really up to par. Users have reported that after posting a video they haven’t been able to find it easily, even by typing the exact title into the search bar. DTube is full of promises but it’s still in its early stages and there are bound to be some bugs.
Flote is a social media platform launched in 2019 with the intention of creating a space where people could express themselves freely, without the censorship found on traditional social networks. It has been called an alternative to Twitter, but it does have some key differences.
Besides there being no censorship, there is also no character limit on posts, which can also include images, videos or links. Your user profile can include links to your profiles on a lot of different social media platforms, including Steemit, Dtube, Minds, Hive and some traditional ones like Facebook, Instagram or Spotify. The other big difference is that your Flote account also includes a built-in Bitcoin wallet that allows you to receive or send payments. Users can link their Flote account to their Twitter account so they can easily cross-post to both platforms.
Flote is very easy to set up; users can have their accounts running in seconds, needing only an email address and selecting a username and password. The interface is very similar to Twitter’s, so users don’t have to face a big learning curve. Even though Flote is still in beta, both the website and the mobile app work smoothly and provide a good user experience. Of course, Flote’s user base is still very limited so you won’t find many friends or family members there yet, but you could always invite them to sign up. Another controversy around Flote is selecting Bitcoin as the in-app currency. Bitcoin may be the most famous and most valuable of cryptocurrencies, but transaction speeds are slow and the fees can be pretty high. If one of your followers decided to give you a 1$ tip and the transaction fee ends up being higher than that, they probably won’t proceed. However, as Flote gets ready to come out of beta and release version 1.0 in July 2021, it’s likely more tokens will be supported, including the app’s own Flote token.
Although Twetch runs on a centralized server and the service’s admins can censor or ban users, all actions on the platform are pushed to a blockchain powered by the BSV coin, which has some controversies surrounding it. Twetch was launched as a private beta in mid 2019 so it’s one of the newcomers in the arena. They have quickly gathered several thousand users and have been out of the beta stage for about a year.
Twetch’s basic functionality is similar to Twitter’s. Users can create posts (called “twetches” instead of “tweets” that can be up to 256 characters in length and can contain embedded images. Users can like or comment on other twetches and follow other users. The trick with Twetch is that every transaction is a micropayment, so users have to pay for posting, commenting, following or liking. For example, posting a text-only “twetch” costs 0.02$ and 0.07$ if it contains an image. Following a user costs 0.10$. Twetch keeps 20% of these fees and gives 80% to the content creator. Twetch also has an interesting feature called “Troll toll”. If you notice someone is constantly posting offensive comments on your twetches or otherwise trolling you, you can set a special fee that will make it very expensive for them to do so. For example, you could set a Troll Toll of 500$ for one user and that’s how much they’ll have to pay if they want to comment on your post. And if they do cough up the money, you’re going to get a nice profit out of their trolling.
Twetch is an interesting concept. Setup is easy and quick and the UI is pretty straightforward. However, Twetch’s user base is still very small so you won’t get much reach. And paying to post, comment, follow or like is something that will take a lot of getting used to, especially when other platforms let you do those things for free.
Wrapping it up
The social media landscape is very broad, and there is a whole world beyond Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok. The main thing that we have to be aware of is that for the traditional big names, users are actually treated like products. They collect valuable data that they send to other companies who use it to better target their ads. And at the end of the day, most of these big companies just give their users a small part of what they get for running the ads, if that. But there’s another generation of social media platforms rising. Decentralized apps where the companies won’t censor you because your views and opinions don’t align with theirs, where no mysterious algorithms recommend content based on who knows what. And where users are free to pay and get paid for their content right from the start. So start looking around and exploring the world of decentralized social media. You can start with the platforms mentioned here, but there are a lot more. I’m sure you will be pleasantly surprised.