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Decentralization and Social Platforms: ONO’s Bashir Modanov Exclusive

  • Masha Beetroot
    SingUlarity

    The newly established social network ONO promises to stay out of its users’ lives

Decentralization and Social Platforms: ONO’s Bashir Modanov Exclusive
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Contents

U.Today is bringing you an exclusive interview with Bashir Modanov, Global Marketing Director of the recently established decentralized social platform ONO. A native of Kazakhstan, Modanov is now based in Beijing, China, where he was working as a business executive for a number of high-tech firms before joining a startup company with a very particular vision. Our journalist Maria had a chance to catch up with him in person.

Behind the Doors

U.Today: You are defining ONO as a decentralized social network. How did the idea of putting a user “at the epicentre” of it all come to you? What’s the background of this idea? You specifically listed diversity as one of the distinct features of your social network. Can you expand on this?

Modanov: We are a social network based on the Blockchain technology. The reason we came up with this concept is that when you look around, all you see is heavily centralized platforms that make profits from their users by selling their data without any regard for the law. As a result, many platforms today make the headlines mostly due to their ignorance and neglect. What ONO offers is different. We provide features similar to other social networks, but ours is a unique concept that has introduced self-governance and a reward system for its users by allowing them to tap into their own net worth. It should also be noted that ONO is, first and foremost, a decentralized platform, and, as such, offers the benefit of data protection, since the platform is not capable of withholding any of its users’ information.

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U.Today: Back in June, you announced that you were going to be an EOS BP Candidate. What are your current aspirations? Are you aiming to make it into the top 21?

Modanov: Yes, that’s right, we were an EOS block producer candidate, but our strategy has shifted, because we feel that EOS is not a platform. The costs of integrating it are sky-high, while the benefits are meager. So, we came up with our own main network that we simply call the “mainnet”, with the view to create our own chain, which is currently in progress.

U.Today: You say that you have Super Partners, and their main job is content management. Is there a possibility for collusion?

Modanov: There was this possibility before. It actually happened with EOS. But we’ve since decided to use a different track: there will be a totally different voting system, and possibility of collusion will be completely eliminated.

The Super Partners are a group of individuals from all walks of life who moderate the network independently. What happened with EOS pushed us to use a different type of scheme, so as to avoid potential problems.

We have set up a voting system different from what EOS offers, such as 70% of the work is done in an automated manner, while 30% of what we do goes through machine learning. In the future, our aim is to develop this capacity, that is, have 90% of the work done using machine learning and only 10% of it done manually.

Function

U.Today: Are your AI and Machine Learning algorithms running on your servers? Or are they decentralized?

Modanov: Actually, we are already cooperating with some AI-focused companies in regards to the KYC process, content research, and targeting. As soon as our mainnet is launched, we’ll be ready to move everything from our servers onto the Blockchain.

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U.Today: What are the main functions of the platform: describe what I can do there and how it promises to change my life?

Modanov: The basic functions are similar to those of Twitter and Instagram, so, naturally, you can share pictures, articles, and short videos.

However, the difference is that ONO comes with a reward program. For each engagement, you can earn tokens, called ONOT, which you’ll be able to change to fiat currencies. This unique ecosystem is gaining recognition worldwide.

By the time we launched in August, we offered our first 300 000 users 300 tokens each for registration. We now have a growing community of 3mln+ users: the registration reward is 50 tokens, as is referring a friend. Another way to earn tokens is to publish posts, since this mechanism also works for post-based calculations. Frankly speaking, right now most of the users are already using the decentralized App, sharing their moments and earning coins, but in the future there’s going to be a feature which will also allow them to exchange those coins for fiat money.

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U.Today: You are actively participating in various events, among them Consensus. What are the future plans for the Asian roadshow?

Modanov: There are a bunch of conferences happening all over Asia. One of our next stops will be Cointelegraph’s Block Show, a huge event hosted in Singapore.

U.Today: How is user identification going to be handled? And how are you going to fight the Sybil Attacks?

Modanov: The KYC option allows users to have their identity verified, and as such your user power is increased compared to a non-KYC-verified user. As a verified user, you can write really long posts (more than 500 words), and you can share your photos. For non-KYC users, we’re implementing AI-solutions, but these users will indeed have limited power on ONO and won’t be able to share as much information.

In terms of Sybil Attacks, I don’t think there’ll be a huge problem with that: the Blockchain is one of the most secure cyber spaces we have seen so far.

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What’s Next

U.Today: In 2018, everybody in the crypto industry understands that massive user adoption of decentralized systems will not happen unless UX is on par with centralized systems. This is especially true of social networks. What is your solution to ensure that the user gets the best possible experience while using a decentralized platform?

Modanov: Many users haven’t been able to experience the best of the Blockchain as most decentralized systems are poorly built, and, as a result, aren’t offering their effective solutions to the public. That’s what we’re looking to change. You can try our App, which is available on Google Play and the Apple store, to see it for yourself. Currently, we’re working on adding fun, useful features unavailable elsewhere on the market, and one of the upcoming features we’ll be introducing soon is a wallet for users to buy, exchange, and transfer coins.

U.Today: You mentioned POC (Power of Contribution) in your white paper. What are the principles behind it, apart from it being the incentive for users on your platform?

Modanov: The power of contribution is something more than just registration: we’re using it to evaluate content and reward users with tokens, so that the users also become contributors.

U.Today: For a social network, getting a critical mass of active users with valuable content in the first stages is crucial for creating the much needed snowball effect. What is your strategy to make it happen?

Modanov: We are trying to attract more and more creative individuals, creative users, and top writers on Steemit to deliver decent content. I think a lot of people will be coming to our App for high-quality content and fair interaction, as it offers many more benefits compared to many other currently available platforms.

U.Today: In your white paper, it’s written that for the starting phase you launch ONO on the Ethereum network in order to gain a limited number of initial users and you later plan to migrate to EOS once all has been properly launched. When exactly then is the migration to EOS scheduled?

Modanov: The white paper hasn’t been updated for quite a long time, and so there are some facts on it that have since been modified accordingly.

We’re planning to launch our token system on the Ethereum network, but not the App, and we are creating our own main chain, called the ONO chain. The first testing phase is taking place this December, while the main chain is due to be made available at the beginning of next year.

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Artificial Intelligence: Usurped and Trapped, But Not For Much Longer

  • Darryn Pollock
    SingUlarity

    Artificial Intelligence has so much range and scope, and although it has primarily been aimed at making advertising revenue, it could be different in the East

Artificial Intelligence: Usurped and Trapped, But Not For Much Longer
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Why AI’s true potential can be fully explored in the East, not in the West

The Internet was born out of the idea of sharing information across the planet with no constraints or controls. Yet the manner in which it has manifested itself today is no longer true to those original ideas.

In the age of social media, we have come to a point where information and data have been usurped by a few companies that allow people to use their services with an underlying, hidden cost of that data.

Facebook and Google have taken full control of data, using it for their own needs. This is starting to expand into not only people’s data but also new and emerging technologies, such as AI.

Much like how other companies in Silicon Valley began their lives with this brazen entrepreneurial spirit and slowly evolved into ones that could not survive on innovation alone, this has led them down the road of chasing ad revenue, creating new and deceivious ways in which to reach it.

The same applies to AI; such a new and potentially revolutionary technology is being sprouted by small innovative companies, only to be bought out and taken over by the Internet giants of Google and Facebook to be used as a new avenue for ad dollars.

These days, the direction of AI companies is overwhelmingly being used to target user behavior in order to extract more ad dollars, rather than advancing the technology for its much more powerful and useful needs.

It has left AI languishing in one direction when enough resources are thrown at it, and thus pigeonholed its potential — but that is only real for the West. There is a big drive coming from China, which has not taken long to catch up in terms of research to expand AI.

However, their mandate is very different to the West’s, and ad dollars are not part of the process for AI. This means its true potential can be exponentially explored in the East, and, in time, probably overtake the stymied position of western AI.

Of course, China may forge ahead, but with its governmental control and socialistic nature, it still brings its own problems when it comes to advancing a new and only possible technology like AI. For this reason, it is also worth delving into the potential of CI (Community Intelligence)

The embodiment of evil

It would be a bit harsh and dramatic to call the likes of Facebook and Google ‘evil’; however, Jaron Lanier, who is widely credited as a founder of virtual reality, has recently delivered a sobering prognosis on the spiraling corruption of these types of social networks.

“I can’t call them social networks anymore. I call them behavior modification empires,” said Lanier in Vancouver for the TED conference, adding:

“I don’t think it’s a matter of bad people who’ve done a bad thing. It’s a globally tragic, astounding ridiculous system rather than a wave of evil.”

Lanier’s point is that the Internet was built on a socialist model that everything should be free and accessible to all. But it also celebrated visionary tech entrepreneurs who made it big with their world-changing ideas: “How do you celebrate entrepreneurship when everything is free?” he mused.

This is where the crossover between these two juxtapositioned ideas was reached in the form of advertising funding. Advertising allows companies to use their innovative ideas to attract people and make money off them, and that model has been growing exponentially with a few major companies usurping all the power.

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Now, the close working relationship of these major companies and the wants and needs of advertisers see them using their innovation to maximize advertising revenue. Thus, the tech entrepreneurs and visionaries who are pushing the boundaries are often bought out and taken over by the companies which have already made their fortune.

This then leads to these ideas taking a road which is far more applicable to achieving ad revenue than expanding the boundaries of tech innovation.

AI’s dalliance with advertising

AI is one such revolutionary tech advancement which has become trapped and usurped by the likes of Google, Facebook, and other tech giants who are trying to utilize this new technology as another way to create ad revenue.

It has become so that these large tech companies are picking up AI thought leaders and developers, either out of university or worse, by buying out their small startups and steering them in the direction they need.

“In effect, tech startups are serving as stealth recruiting tools for big companies, used to gobble up young developers and researchers who don’t particularly feel like big-company careers. These young nerds sign up to work for some exciting startup, but then the startup inevitably gets sold to a big company, and they wind up cashing out to a small degree,” explains Ben Goertzel, founder and CEO of Singularity NET, a Blockchain-based AI marketplace.

“The channeling of AI expertise into big corporations has a significant impact regarding what kinds of problems AI gets primarily applied to. Advertising, for example, gets an awful lot of attention. Cambridge Analytica’s relatively crude methods of social media engineering, applied to political campaigning, got a lot of press in the last US presidential election cycle. But Google, Facebook and Baidu (among others) have vastly more sophisticated manipulation machinery, which is used not to elect candidates but rather to direct people to buy products and services,” he adds.

A new dawn rises in the East

The way things work in the West, or in the US in particular, has made it standard practice for new technology to be primarily advertising-focused. This has also only come about because of the general monopoly and power that Western companies have over the vast majority of the Internet.

No longer is the Internet totally free and socialist. Even in countries where there is socialism, that notion is an incorrect one. The Socialist Republic of China has cut itself off from the rest of the Internet with its Great Firewall, but behind that wall, it is also devoid of reliance on advertising dollars.

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Because of this, China is building up its AI development at a rapid rate, but it is also not redirecting it to be used solely as a tool for advertising revenue. China’s growth of AI has larger and far-reaching potential as they are looking to expand the technology to its full potential.

So, while there may be a division in the advancement of Westernised AI and that of the East, there is at least a base of development which is looking to drive AI forward to its full potential, offering a level of equilibrium.

Issues with China and AI alternative in CI

Although China does not have the same reliance on advertising dollars to drive its AI advancement, the strictly-controlled country is not free to explore and expand AI as it pleases. Government intervention and direction is clear and evident in advancing technologies. Thus, AI will still have some sort of agenda dictated to it by the state.

It is for this reason that Community Intelligence is a viable alternative to AI and its stymied growth.

The world is heading towards an era of true community involvement and strength. No longer is there a one-way interaction of information that was originally seen at the birth of the Internet. Furthermore, as discussed with the dangers of social media, there is now this third wave of community-powered engagement.

Thus, to have CI as an alternative is to have a group collective answer questions and process problems in order to determine the path of common acceptance.

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