Ross William Ulbricht, an American software engineer sentenced to a double life sentence for allegedly operating the pioneering darknet marketplace, Silk Road, in 2011-2013, is an iconic figure for early Bitcoiners. Despite being out of the internet for eight years, he is still interested in decentralization ideas and practices. His revolutionary concept of decentralized social media appeared on Medium today.
Introducing decentralized social protocol (DSP)
Mr. Ulbricht stresses that the essence of decentralization in social media is the fact that users need to retain control over their data during the entire process of interacting with the platform. Meanwhile, in the pursuit of profit, tech giants created platform-centric systems.
As a result, users are just "feeding" the tech giants both their content and the clicks necessary to garner advertisers' money. Platforms have ossified this modus operandi by virtue of their control under content servers and mechanisms of content distribution.
To reconsider the existing order, new-gen social media systems should become user-centric. Thus, the new components—interface providers—should be introduced while users pay for access to content and get paid for their clicks.
While the user-centric model of "fair" content distribution is not at all new for decentralized media services, Mr. Ulbricht shares a number of suggestions on what this platform would need to work reliably in practice.
How DSP work would in practice
First, the platform should be agnostic in terms of content type: videos, text messages, and photos should be supported equally. Then, access to the content should be encrypted; the asymmetric cipher is a better type of protection.
Unlike the majority of existing platforms, Ulbricht's DSP pays attention to the context of messages. This option should be adjustable, he supposes:
So, for example, if someone 'likes' your content on a Twitter-style website and someone else 'likes' it on a Facebook-style site, everyone viewing your content, regardless of which site they are using, will see two likes.
The user profiles (accounts) can be managed with keypairs like cryptocurrency wallets. Also, digital currency can be the technical environment for fees on DSP-like platforms.
It should be noted that Ross Ulbricht is now behind bars in United States Penitentiary Tucson in Arizona. In 2020, his family asked then-U.S. President Trump to pardon him, but they were denied.