Today, we think there are several problems with social media:
- There has been relatively little innovation with regard to how creators monetize. Most creators earn much less than they should on existing platforms, if they earn anything at all.
- A handful of companies effectively control public discourse. Their decisions on what we see and don't see are driven predominantly by what maximizes ad revenue, rather than something more aligned with public good.
- The dominant companies have cut off third-party developers. The incumbents have closed off external access to their data, and any novel product developed by an upstart is quickly cloned and bolted onto the incumbents' data moats. We think this has significantly stifled product innovation and competition in social media.
The inspiration for BitClout hinges on one key insight: If you can properly mix monetary speculation with social media, you not only end up with a novel product that creates innovative ways for creators to monetize, but you also end up with a totally new business model that solves these problems, and that isn't based on ads.
To achieve this, BitClout takes inspiration from Bitcoin and Ethereum. These platforms took an ecosystem that was fundamentally closed, namely the traditional financial system, and showed that creating a more open alternative that anyone can build on top of could significantly increase competition and innovation. Bitcoin and Ethereum don't have data moats to protect. In fact, the more open they are and the more people that build on top of them, the more value accrues to Bitcoin and Ethereum holders. These projects showed, for the first time, that dominant platforms could be built around a community with open data rather than a company that benefits shareholders at the expense of everyone else. We thought: What if the same model that is decentralizing the financial system could be applied to decentralize social media?
Today, we think BitClout is fundamentally two things:
- A new kind of social network. If you've used BitClout, you know it's like Twitter but with a new kind of monetization tool for creators called "creator coins." With BitClout, every creator gets a coin that anyone on the platform can buy and sell, which unlocks many innovative ways for creators to monetize, and allows them to create deeper relationships with their followers. Creator coins are only the beginning, though, and you can learn more about the product side of BitClout here.
- A new kind of blockchain. We decided to build BitClout from the ground up as its own custom blockchain. It has an architecture similar to Bitcoin, but re-imagined to support a social network. BitClout is not a company, it doesn't have a board, and there is no CEO-- it is just code that runs on nodes across the internet just like Bitcoin. Every profile, post, follow, etc... is stored on a public blockchain that everyone in the world has access to, making it a totally open platform that has the potential to solve the problems that social media has today.
Today, a post submitted to Facebook or Twitter belongs to these corporations, rather than the creator who posted it. And the monetization goes predominantly to these corporations as a result.
In contrast, BitClout stores all of its data on a public blockchain, which means that anyone in the world can run a "node" that exposes their own curated feed. Today, bitclout.com operates one such node and its feed highlights crypto content. But there is no reason why other "verticalized" players can't enter the market to create feeds that they're uniquely suited toward curating. For example, imagine if ESPN ran a node that curated a feed of the best sports content. Or if Politico ran a node that curated a feed of the best political content. Additionally, since BitClout is fully open-source, these players could even customize their UI and build custom algorithms to rank the influencers and posts in a way that serves their specific target customer. We think this will quickly move us from a world in which a handful of juggernauts control the dominant feeds to one in which consumers will have thousands of feeds to choose from, each with its own specific focus.
On top of that, storing all of the data on a public blockchain makes it so that, with one engineer, anyone can build a social media experience that's competitive with the existing incumbents. It cannot be overstated the extent to which this lowers the barrier to entry for creating new social media products. It becomes possible for existing publishers to trivially spin up social apps and experiences as direct adjacencies to their core business, and allows upstarts to innovate on a relatively even footing with megacorps for the first time. Compare this to today where building a competitive social app generally requires building a billion-user data moat first.
The best part is that anyone who runs a node to curate their own feed also contributes data back to the public pool of profiles, posts, follows, etc... that's stored on the public blockchain. A post or a like on ESPN's node can be surfaced on Politico's feed. A post made in China can be surfaced on a feed running on a node in America and vice versa. And with every node that runs, more content gets contributed back to the global data pool stored on the blockchain, making every other node on the network more powerful and more engaging to users. In some sense, BitClout can solve a collective action problem among smaller publishers: Instead of being forced to contribute to a privately-owned data pool controlled by a megacorp who's not aligned with them, smaller publishers can now contribute to a public data pool that nobody controls and that they'll never be dis-intermediated from. Thus we can move from a world in which data is a heavily-guarded, privately-owned resource to one in which it is more like a globally-accessible utility that anyone can build on.
- Importantly, there is a strong incentive for publishers to contribute data back to the blockchain because not doing so would deter the top creators from wanting to publish on them. After all, why would you publish on a closed platform that exclusively owns your data when you could publish to the blockchain and have your post instantly available to every node/feed that's running on the internet?
We think all of the above can give the creators unprecedented reach, and a more direct relationship with their followers than has been afforded to them with existing platforms. But reach is only one side of the coin-- the other side is monetization.
Creator coins are already changing the game in terms of how creators monetize on the internet, but they're only the beginning. Because BitClout is money-native and open-source, anyone in the world can start to experiment with new ways for creators to monetize. For example, imagine a major creator wants to start offering premium content in exchange for a monthly subscription. All it takes is for one person on the internet to build this feature, and the entire BitClout user-base gets access to it instantly. The same goes for other features like an inbox where creators can be paid to Reclout posts, or paid to answer messages from their followers. And this goes for other things like detecting harmful content or weeding out spam, where the best machine learning researchers in the world can build solutions, with access to the full firehose of data, without asking for permission, no matter where they are. BitClout is not a company, it's a protocol that the entire world can build on collaboratively, which we believe will ultimately create even more ways to unlock creators' true potential, and bring competition and innovation back to social media.
Moreover, because BitClout is money-native, new signals emerge that can be used to rank content more effectively. For example, the first experiment the BitClout devs launched was ranking comments by the coin price of the commenter. Amazingly, this extremely simple ranking mechanism has already produced results that we think are competitive with centralized platforms. Ranking messages by coin price will help significantly reduce spam for influencers as well in a way that's truly unique to BitClout, and this is still just the beginning. Imagine what else will be built off of the "Clout Signal" once the entire world starts contributing to BitClout.
Finally, we think it's important to mention that we designed BitClout from the ground up so that the incentives of the system keep it decentralized, even in the long run. Creators have a strong incentive to post directly to the blockchain, rather than to a centralized entity that withholds their content from the blockchain. And there's virtually no possibility for developers lose access to data or API's because all the data is on the blockchain, and they already have all the data when they run a node. Compare this to traditional social media companies, which start open to build a network effect and then shut off access after they've built a winning data moat. Moreover, you're not decentralized if you have a company and a CEO that runs the show, and this is a large reason why the original devs operate anonymously. We don't want you to rely on our judgement; we want you to start making decisions about where the platform should go as a community. With BitClout, there is no corporate entity that will prioritize shareholder interests over those of the community, there is just the community-- and everybody is aligned together by the fact that we all own BitClout and Creator Coins.
With your help, we hope to build the BitClout blockchain into an enduring positive force for humanity that can bring competition and innovation back to the internet. The internet started as a fundamentally decentralized thing, but we’re at a point in history where things have concentrated and where innovating is harder than it used to be. After much thought over the past several years, we are convinced that the pendulum will swing back toward decentralization, perhaps permanently, and we all have an opportunity to be a part of that. A new generation of applications that the entire world can build collaboratively, unlocking the full potential of human ingenuity.