How Blockchain And Data Dividends Could Fix Facebook
As a person of a certain age, Facebook is more meaningful to me than any fish-lips selfie or desire to bring out my inner influencer. It’s a nice way to spend a few moments a day taking an inventory of friends, family and acquaintances and marvel at the joys and sorrows that are the human journey. I know I’m not alone. But I spent the weekend commiserating with my dwindling number of Facebook cohorts who know that they are in abusive relationships with their social media of choice.
It was one thing to have to look at an ad or two, many of which were perfectly targeted. It’s another thing for them to get rich off of my personal information, make democracy less tamper-proof and then start covering up their tracks through crafty PR schemes.
I never went to Facebook for reality (if you did, you’d know that your friends can’t possibly be having that much fun or drama). I don’t mind that Facebook knows something about my love of country decor or low-fat recipes. In the end, that’s beneficial. I also set up my preferences according to what seemed like their heartfelt concern for my safety. So, this is not a rant; it’s a thank you note. And this is the thanks I get?
The paid advertising model has been egregiously abused by Facebook. And the hemorrhaging has begun. Trust has eroded. Viewership is down 20%. And 44% of users ages 18 to 29 have deleted the app from their phones in the past year.
Two major underpinnings of Facebook need serious fixing if there’s even a remote chance of climbing out of its self-inflicted muck. The first is personal identification — simply put, verifying that you are who you say you are. The second? A rewards system for being an engaged user. Both require major reconstruction, not just another Band-Aid or mea culpa.
The Data Dividend
At last year’s Techonomy Forum, David Kirkpatrick interviewedChris Hughes, a former roommate of Mark Zuckerberg. Hughes suggested creating a “data dividend” to offset income inequality. He reasoned that, individually, our personal data has worth; collectively, we’re creating a commonwealth based on data. “I think it’s reasonable to ask that everyone who’s creating the data shares in a little bit of the upside,” said Hughes. Pandora’s box.
Think about it. Grocery and department stores have rewarded loyalty forever in the form of coupons, discounts and cash back. In some form or another, they are giving their best customers a chance to share in their profits. Shouldn’t social media do the same?
While they might live in a bubble, Facebook execs do not live under a rock. Earlier in the year, they announced the formation of a blockchain team reporting to David Marcus, a former PayPal executive. The blockchain, though limited in scalability and speed at the moment, presents a perfect new scaffolding for Facebook to provide ID authentication, proof of origin and ownership. It would allow those who share their IPs, time and personal IDs with Facebook communities to be rewarded, be it in cash, crypto or Facebucks (I get the royalties if they go with “Facebucks.” Techonomy can have it if they go with “FaceCoin“).
Vinny Lingham, creator of Civic — a platform that, among other things, verifies identity without the need for usernames or passwords — thinks it’s the will, not the way, that Facebook lacks. “The technology to solve the problem exists, but I’m not sure the will or short-term economic benefits are in alignment to force any change in the status quo,” he says.
A new generation of more equitable social media communities is forming as we speak. IOVO, Sapien, Streambed, Steemit and Live Planet (full disclosure: my company has worked with Streambed and Live Planet in the past) are just a few of the blockchain-based companies with variants on the “identify yourself” and “earn for your participation” theme. The days of allowing companies to monetize personal data are quickly coming to a close. I’d go with Facebucks.