Verified connections: Redefining social media interactions through provable identities – TNGlobal

The internet once promised to dismantle barriers to expression, empowering anyone with a computer and an internet connection to showcase their creativity to the world. However, news often surfaces about social media platforms removing content or suspending accounts, which sometimes inadvertently affects users who create genuine content. For example, in 2023, DragonForce, a British power metal band, faced a wrongful copyright claim for their song “Valley of the Damned” on their official YouTube channel.

Additionally, many creators rely on a handful of platforms critical for reaching a wide audience, creating a monopoly. And such situations seem to dim that promise. Despite social media’s role in transforming many aspects of life, it’s clear that significant voids remain — and that presents the need for a landscape where creativity and expression face fewer constraints.

New alternatives in the broader social media landscape are springing up to challenge the centralized dominance of traditional platforms. Decentralized social media, for instance, is gaining traction, promising enhanced privacy, censorship resistance, and user control over data, thanks to blockchain.

Platforms like Mastodon and Minds also showcase decentralized social media’s diversity. Mastodon’s federated model supports a vast network of servers for open microblogging, while Minds rewards user engagement with Ethereum-based digital assets. Additionally, Peepeth, an Ethereum-based social media platform, prioritizes community recognition and deters spam by covering post fees, revoking this privilege for spammers. It limits likes to one per day to ensure content quality, with likes being irreversible.

Moreover, the former CEO of X (formerly Twitter), Jack Dorsey, has been a vocal proponent of decentralization. For instance, Bluesky, a decentralized social app conceptualized by Dorsey back in 2019 and developed parallel to Twitter, has now opened its doors to the public. In fact, at that time, Dorsey tweeted about it: “Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard.”

While the promise of decentralized social media is vast, including potentially revolutionizing online interactions and content sharing, obstacles remain. High transaction fees and scalability issues are notable technical hurdles, but the more pressing concerns lie in the social domain. The presence of fake accounts compounds issues of superficial connections and inauthentic interactions, further diluting the quality of online discourse.

Amid all the challenges that conventional and decentralized social media present, zero-knowledge (ZK) proofs emerge as a contending solution. They offer privacy and security, allowing users to authenticate identities or share credentials without exposing any underlying data. Meaning, this cryptographic technique enables one party (the prover) to assure another (the verifier) of a fact’s truthfulness without revealing anything beyond the fact itself.

The social media finance (SocialFi) platform, AsMatch, exemplifies the practical application of ZK proofs in social connectivity. By integrating Manta Network’s zkCertificates, the platform utilizes ZK proofs for a seamless and secure identity verification process, including zkKYC. This approach enhances user privacy while fostering genuine connections based on shared interests and proximity.

Moreover, it also allows trade among users, supported by a ZK badge system. This system enables users to verify their financial credibility, such as ‘whale’ status for those who hold large balances, in a decentralized and trustless manner. This ZK badge system is akin to the gold checkmark on X that signifies verified identity or an official brand account.

To further emphasize the versatility of ZK proofs, the use cases extend beyond Web3. In 2021, Meta (formerly Facebook) introduced Winterfell, a project delivering a general-purpose STARK (Scalable Transparent Arguments of Knowledge) prover and verifier. This development was aimed at democratizing the power of confidence interval (CI) proofs, a category that includes zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs), by making them accessible to all developers. Winterfell provides proofs of cryptographic computational correctness that would typically require specialized knowledge and skills to produce.

While the landscape of social media and Web3 is evolving, many social platforms typically offer limited, if any, financial rewards for user engagement and content creation, leaving a gap to be filled. And this is where the emerging SocialFi space is stepping in and offering approaches that fill this void.

As Candice, Core Contributor at AsMatch, the 1st SocialFi project on Manta Network utilizing ZK identities says, “Mechanisms like Match & Earn are poised to transform social interactions by incentivizing online engagement and fostering offline meetups. Online, it boosts engagement by rewarding users for participating in discussions, sharing content, and connecting with new people, potentially leading to more diverse and meaningful interactions. Offline, it combats solitude by incentivizing real-world meetups and community participation.”

With the current global reach of the internet at 5.35 billion users and social media at 5.04 billion users, the trajectory of social media is set to move higher. It also presents opportunities to incorporate more aspects of Web3 technologies, broadening the scope beyond just financial incentives to include enhanced privacy, security, and ownership of content. This evolution promises a more integrated and rewarding experience for users, indicating a significant shift in how digital interactions are valued and monetized.

TNGlobal INSIDER publishes contributions relevant to entrepreneurship and innovation. You may submit your own original or published contributions subject to editorial discretion.

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