In 2022, there is a heated debate going on about big tech censorship, freedom of speech, and data privacy. People are concerned regarding social media giants acting as arbiters of what information is deemed fit for the public.
Recently, as reported by WSJ, Facebook throttled a journal's review on climate science and deployed alleged fact-checkers to suppress news articles that it considers dangerous information or viral hoaxes. In March 2021, it flagged a journal op-ed by a professor of John Hopkins University as fake news.
Amazon pulled a three-year-old book on transgender policy from its web store.
Google, Apple, and Amazon banned the parler social media platform. All these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.
Data privacy is another hot button issue. Recently news revealed that Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail LTD suffered a data breach. 5.4 million customer data leaked online: names, phone numbers, addresses, DOB, order histories, credit card details, and passwords.
So, what's the solution to the open arm-twisting carried out by these tech giants? The answer is decentralization. dApps on the blockchain network can help break the monopoly of these tech giants on information, thereby safeguarding freedom of speech and protecting users' data. To know how it will do it, let’s first understand what are dAapps?
What are dApps?
dApps are programs that run on a blockchain network. They are free from the influence of any authority and can be used for various purposes like gaming, social media, and finance.
How can dApps Safeguard Free Speech With Blockchain Technology?
Before we discuss in-depth about dApps let’s first understand blockchain technology and how its functioning.
Blockchain records information that cannot be modified in any way. It is a digital book of transactions copied and distributed across the network of computer systems on the blockchain.
Whenever a new transaction occurs, a record of it is added to every participant's log. The decentralized database managed by multiple parties is known as DLT (Distributed ledger technology).
Blockchain uses a cryptographic signature called a hash to record these transactions, which cannot be altered.
So, as dApps run on the blockchain, any information recorded in it cannot be removed or changed. It cannot be blocked by government or private entities as dApp is not hosted on any IP address.
That's how dApps can safeguard free speech. Its open-source and decentralized nature will ensure that no one has the power to censor the information or opinion that you post.
So, we know what dApps can do, but the big question now is: Is there a market for it? Ultimately, all this talk of safeguarding free speech through decentralized social media will fall flat if nobody uses it. I am happy to report that there is a demand for it. It's nowhere as big as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but it's growing. Check out this link to see all the social media dApps along with their users, volume, and activity.
The demand for decentralized social media dApps will increase as the awareness spreads. In fact, people are becoming aware, and the stats are proving the same.
(Source: Pew Research Centre)
Can dApps Safeguard User Data?
Yes, due to the blockchain’s decentralized ledger system. The ledger is not isolated to a central server; it is shared among different blockchain computers. That's how a decentralized system is created.
A decentralized ledger can speed up the verification process as it doesn’t have any middle man. The transactions will be verified cryptographically. So, users will have the ownership of their data and also the power to decide who gets to access their information. They can verify the authenticity of third-parties and even get paid for it in cryptocurrency.
Each data will have its vault, including smart contracts linked to it, which determines the duration to access the data and the price for it. A data owner can track the transaction in real-time.
The consumer's data cannot be changed, which helps validate transactions' authenticity. Such transactions will be transparent as they are traceable and verifiable, ensuring data is not compromised. It will build trust among each party.
Smart Contracts Play a Key Role in Maintaining Trust, Transparency and Security in Blockchain
For the unversed, smart contracts are programs stored on a blockchain that run when specific conditions are fulfilled. They automate the execution of an agreement without any outside involvement or time loss. Smart contracts can also automate a workflow, setting off the following actions when requirements are met.
So, how do they work?
Smart contracts follow simple "if/when...then...." statements written into code on the blockchain. The network of computers executes the actions when specific conditions are verified and fulfilled. But, what kind of actions? Well, it could be anything like releasing funds to specific parties, registering a vehicle, issuing a ticket, or sending notifications. Once the transaction is complete, the blockchain gets updated, and it cannot be changed after that. Also, only parties that have permission can see the results.
A smart contract can have many conditions as needed to satisfy the participant regarding executing the task. They must decide how transactions and their data are represented on the blockchain to establish the terms, agree on the "if/when...then" rules that will govern it, explore all the possible exceptions, and decide a framework for resolving disputes.
Benefits of Smart Contracts
- Speedy, efficient, and accurate: The contract is executed immediately after the condition is met. Smart contracts are digital and automated, and there is no paperwork to process. Also, no time is wasted on fixing errors that often come from manually filling the documents.
- Trust and Transparency: No third-party involvement and encrypted records of transactions ensure that the information hasn't been tampered with by anyone.
- Better Security: Blockchain transaction records are difficult to hack due to the encryption. Also, as each record is connected to previous ones on a distributed ledger, hackers would have to modify the entire chain to alter a single record.
- Saves time and money: Smart contracts remove the need to have a middle man handle transactions, eliminating time delays and saving costs.
Combined with blockchain and smart contracts, dApps will ensure that your data is secured and it’s ownership will be in your hands.
Pain Points that dApps developers need Account for While developing Social Media Apps
Scalability is essential in mobile app development as it can accommodate growth, provide a good user experience, and offer a better return on investment. Currently, scalability in dApps is an Achilles heel.
So, how can dApps overcome this limitation?
1. Ethereum 2.0
Ethereum is the go-to platform for dApps, and it can process only 25 transactions per second. Also, it's costly to increase the transactions on the network. These limitations are called scaling constraints, and it's one of the problems that's holding dApps back.
Ethereum 2.0 promises to resolve it. It aims to jump from 25 TPS to potentially 100,000 TPS (transaction per second).
The Ethereum 2.0 update is called Serenity. The update has been divided into multiple phases due to its complexity and to reduce technical issues that may pop up from implementing the changes at once.
Many phases of Serenity are being developed altogether and will operate side-by-side, but separately, from the legacy Ethereum blockchain. Eventually, all the new technical upgrades will be integrated.
Phase 0 was implemented in December 2020 and set forth the groundwork for the Beacon Chain; A new blockchain that will manage Ethereum's POS consensus mechanism, validator nodes, and upcoming shard chains.
Phase 1 is next on the roadmap and includes tools to reduce pressure on the Ethereum ecosystem. Shards are a crucial part of this phase as it can solve the scalability problem that dApps face.
Sharding is seen as a game-changer for an effective scaling solution. It involves partitioning a database into smaller, more manageable ones to boost the efficiency of the whole. For blockchain, sharding will partition its data processing responsibilities into smaller pieces called shard chains, which will reduce the network validator's workload.
Each of these network validators will store and manage one shard instead of the entire blockchain network. Thus, shard chains allow parallel processing, reducing the linear processing's latency when using only a single blockchain.
(Source: Image by Hsiao-Wei Wang)
Phase 1 will break down the single Ethereum blockchain into 64 shard chains coordinated by the Beacon chain. Teams of network validators will be randomly assigned to manage specific shard chains on the Ethereum network.
Each shard chain will have its transaction group, unique tasks, and responsibilities. The shard chains can execute code-supporting smart contracts and dApps, similar to the main Ethereum blockchain.
2. A User-Friendly UI/UX for dApp
Most blockchain developers prioritise smart contracts and ignore their dApps' front-end, which is a big mistake. Users will not use your dApps if the front-end isn't user-friendly. So, a sleek user interface is essential to compete with popular and established apps. Here are the six tips for user-friendly UI/UX of dApp: