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Decentralized Social Network

This article discussed how the online social platform giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter constitute a large monopoly of the online network. These platforms create an exclusive social community, since lots of websites also used login provided by Google and Facebook. Last year, Jillian York, a free expression activist was booted off Facebook temporarily for sharing partially nude images as part of her campaign for breast cancer. This prevented her not only from publishing posts on Facebook but also commenting on other websites. The authors also pointed out that there are some emerging platforms to counter this social platform dominance, such as Mastodon, Blockstack, and Steemit, which feature a decentralized social network.

The authors also stated the potential reasons why decentralized social network won’t succeed, mostly discussed the marketing issues and technical issues. First, it is hard for the new media to gain users. Furthermore, there are security threats because these decentralized networks generally allow anyone to join without linking to real world identities. In addition, storage and bandwidth are more costly.

We can depict the online platform as a global network with many nodes and lot of edges connecting to each other. For simplification, we can assume that all these edges are constructed based on having a Facebook account. Therefore, when account is disabled, the user is cut out from the network, becoming an isolated member in this global network. Now, consider the idea of decentralized network, which can be depicted as multiple central nodes (C) branching out to other user nodes (U), and U can be connected to multiple C’s. In such network, when a user node is cut off from a central node, one does not lose all the ties in the online network. The difference between this kind of network is that there is a C serving as midpoint between all U – assuming these platforms are anonymous, thus no friend circles – therefore, none of the user nodes satisfy the triadic closure, which also explains why it is hard to gain and retain users. On the other hand, on Facebook or Google, we can assume most of the user nodes do satisfy triadic closure property, so the users are most likely to stay within the network.


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September 2017