Few years ago I submitted a concept to idea contest how the social media decentralization could work, and also how the social browser could work.
I submitted the idea also to several influencers, in order to get feedback. Among them was
Richard Stallman. The main question I’ve got from the influencers was: how we are going to generate revenue from the model?
I had to think about stable revenue model which would obey the privacy of the user data.
I didn’t have proven idea at that stage, however I had very strong assumptions how the monetization¹ of a decentralized profile would work – via its private references to products the user uses and honestly refers, and also via paid interactions with brands via quizzes, product ideas and paid surveys. I believed that the honesty and the direct communication between the brand and the users could result in a good revenue model for both the sides.
Now, after 3 years following and investigating the incredible business model of Pat Flynn for monetizing niche and personal web sites, which he shares on his blog smartpassiveincome.com, I see how my initial ideas came true and I’m happy to say that now this could be used in an implementation of social media decentralization framework.
What Pat Flynn did with his model was to prove that if a person shares honestly his experience with his audience, he could build massive trust and monetize that via affiliate references to products he uses personally and loves recommending them to his audience.
He uses affiliate links for that purposes, but never real commercials. Because of this, the audience is very loyal to him and loves generating him revenue via his referrals. Some people return to click on purpose on his referral links, as sign of thanksgiving, and also send him postcards to thank him for the content shared!
Pat Flynn started his blog accidentally after being laid-off and didn’t plan to create something fundamental in the web, however he did it!
Following his own ideology of openness and free knowledge sharing, he started publishing annual and monthly income reports since the inception of his blog. Now his annual income for 2013 is 6-figures one, and it’s only because of the trust he generated.
What he managed to monetize is the trust and the contacts – the two new currencies.
I have always believed that one day we all will have social media profiles which would be the decentralized, and this would allow us to make money from recommendations to products we use, like and recommend, and also via sharing our problems to brands who want to create products for us. That would replace entirely the defective advertising and user research system the marketing uses now.
I think Pat Flynn had discovered something really fundamental and I don’t know does he even realize it, but in my humble opinion everybody interested in social media decentralization should know about his model.
What I propose WordPress to do is to try applying the model I’d explain here in this post and form a circle of experts and content creators, which will evaluate it. I think WordPress is the best platform to apply the model of decentralization monetization, because it has already great 60M users creating content worldwide and it’s also open source, easy extendable, and with very active community.
I’d appreciate any feedback from you. Here is my outline how exactly the social media decentralization would work:
I. The social media decentralization from business point of view:
1) the user profile:
The user profile would be created by every single user who needs social presence, with functionality matching his preferences. There will be an option for the user to start with simple core functionality and upgrade anytime later.
If the user wants to share more or less information he will be able to configure this easily. Every user will be able to configure to which people he wants to share information and what type.
The profiles will be verified legally for every single person who wants that, so a profile could be used as a legal presence. There won’t be anymore duplicate accounts or fake accounts. This will eliminate many spamming and trolling practices.
Every single person will be much more responsible about what he is writing or saying on the web. The opinions this way would have also much bigger credibility.
The people who have verified profiles would be able to participate in elections, public votings and discussions. This would be beautiful opportunity for the people to gather legally and solve some common problems which require public voting and public brainstorming.
The implementation of this legal verification process could be performed eventually by the domain providers, selling personal certificates based on our personal IDs.
Every single person will create content via so called ‘social streams‘. The social streams will be defined as information in specific format, or associated with specific social or business model. Social stream for example would be your pictures, the texts you are sharing, your audio podcasts, your favourite music you bookmark, the music you create, your videos, your presentations, your notes from the school. Everything you could create and share with the others in a specific format or connected with some specific business model is a social stream. The separation on social streams would allow the people to manage them more flexibly. They will share them and interact with business and individuals which are interested in their content.
The social streams will allow us to emulate P2P marketplaces via the single profiles, without middleman. Let say you have notes from your university, videos showing your expertise, some audio samples you make and also nice pictures you want to sell. You could sell them directly from your own profile, not only via stock sites and other P2P marketplaces.
Every single model which allows you now to sell P2P would be implemented profile-centric, with options to trade your content or services.
For better search, there will be special search engines or search plug-ins. The search engines will look like search plug-ins of the social browser I’ll describe a bit later in this post.
The search plug-ins will be created and improved by many organizations and they will act as search engine for example for pictures, audio, text.
Even now some search engines are attempting to implement OCR recognition, speech recognition for indexing the videos and audio, image search, so I believe soon the search engines would compete for more niche performance around social, business models and media formats.
2) the personal recommendation system:
Every single person will have personal directories which will be associated with his profile and every single directory will be representing his recommendations of some brands, products and services he is using.
The directories will have sub directories for every single problem we have. For example let’s say you need to change your tires and you need recommendation from your friends for the best services they have used. You’d usually ask your friends and they would tell you what were their impressions from the different service centres, but that takes a lot of time.
Imagine you have a listing with everything you used, with recommendations and opinions how well it helped you solve your problems. So instead of asking your friends were to change your tires, you will click twice and you will see the recommendations from your friends or their trusted influencers and friends. They also would be able to see your recommendations, if you are willing to share them with them.
You could share what kind of cosmetics you purchase for yourself or for your dog, or what kind of services you used for renovating your house. Everything you use would be described in your personal directory and the brands will try to make it easier. This way if you refer something really great, your friend would know it immediately from you. This will allow you to make some decent amount of money from affiliates because the brands would be happy to be referred from loyal customers as they really know how important the word-of-mouth is.
Every single recommendation, which is honest and every single opinion would rate the brands and the products higher amongst other brands. This would be really great way to share experience and contribute to the growth of the good brands and products.
The people, similarly with the personal product directories, will have directories with their wish lists. Let’s say you wish to buy something but you still don’t know what brand you’d prefer or you need concrete product and you still wait for the next version or you just don’t have the money or need some personal references. In these cases you will be able to select what kind of things you wish to buy and if they are real products, this will allow the creators of the products to know how many people wish to buy the product, so they could estimate better the market and eventually send you discounts or copies to review of their product. They will be able to ask you to do paid surveys, too.
So this basically will allow the brands to communicate with the customers better on pre-release and release stage.
Another directory all we will have is the directory with our needs and problems, which will act as incredible source for marketing research.
Imagine the brands want to know who actually needs their product. They always spend a lot of time assuming what the people want, how exactly they prefer the product, and how deep they recognize a problem. The brands need usually to iterate many times about that.
So let’s imagine you have some need which is not solved yet, for example to have a robot augmenting your movements when you cook and then making you soup, sandwich or juice. I’d love having such robot at home. I can’t express now my needs in a way that every single manufacturer could find me quickly and alert me when they need my opinion.
I want to share every single problem I have, which is potentially product or service related and I’d like all the companies interested to solve my problem to target me at the moment they have solution, or want me to share opinions about the solution.
There are plenty of products which I want to buy and I have to wait a lot for them.
I’ll give an example from my practice: Few years ago and about two years before DropBox to achieve its huge success I approached a friend of mine, who is successful co-founder of small hosting company and I asked him to recommend me or provide me a service, which will allow me to store all my files remotely and access them from everywhere. I just wanted to drop my files and to forget about using hard disks anymore. I needed remote access and easy sharing of important files. I assured him I am ready to pay for this service.
We started musing how I could get eventually such service. I asked could we actually adapt a hosting plan to fit my needs and could there be any customized plans for people like me.
He didn’t believe there would be so many people who would be willing seriously to pay for this. He didn’t believe the idea is generally worth investing. Now, as I have already what I want, I use DropBox and many similar products, but I’m still sorry that my friend couldn’t check instantly how many people like me would want the product and create it earlier.
Generally, I think it happens too often with many ideas we have – we find somebody who thought about the same, but we cannot gather to implement them together, because we didn’t have mechanism how to find each other.
Also sometimes we see the products we need, implemented on the other side of the world and we have to wait months or years before they come on our local markets. All this process is very slow and I’d prefer it organized better and more efficient.
I have personally a lot of ideas which I find viable and I’d love implementing them. I want to organize around them crowdsourced process with people like me who would share their views and contribute. This will attract investors, companies and clients who would co-invent. A process like this will create flat structure of not hiring and firing, but shared contribution and profit.
3) the brands and products
The brands would be able to communicate with their clients much better in much more decentralized way, gathering much more information from the clients, depending of course of their preferences how much info they want to share with the brand. The clients could decide to share with the brands their needs and problems and the brands eventually could react with another product or with improvement of the current products. The brands and the clients would communicate much more intensively and in advanced way. All the people will be able to like a product and to rate a product or to add comments about the product depending of their experience with it.
The people will be able to register with their real names and verified identities everywhere and also their wishes and preferences could be followed by another people. If a person likes something, or shares some need or problem, this could be liked and commented from his friends, and also his friends could follow the same need or problem, which would mean that they legally declare they have the same problem or are interested to see how this problem is solved. They could also be targeted by the brands.
This way every single need or problem could be spread and communicated among the communities of people who could form around a brand much quicker. So basically the brand managers won’t have this duty to create the communities from scratch, but they would assist them in their creation. The people also could choose nicknames which they could use when they register somewhere. The anonymity in Internet would be protected if the people want to play anonymous somewhere, but the nicknames would be verifiable for any legal purposes. This won’t allow creating fake profiles because the nicknamed profiles would be verifiable, but the people would be able to choose more artistic nicknames, if they want so.
4) the causes
The same way as the people share problems, needs and wish lists, they will be able to support and share causes. Every single cause will be like a problem or idea you want to engage followers to. The causes basically would live like the brands and they would have the same mechanisms for engaging the crowd. All the people around the world would have legal profiles from which they would be able to raise causes, raise donations, find support for some problems, or find publicity. They would be targeted by charity organizations who want to detect quicker who needs help and donation.
5) the brain dump knowledge sharing process
The brain dump and knowledge sharing process would work like something as easy as now posting a status on Facebook . The people haven’t dreamt about Facebook ten years ago but now they see everyday how powerfully it’s transforming how we communicate.
It’s very essential for us to make the brain dump process quicker, because the people used to have a lot to do and the knowledge sharing process becomes difficult. For all the people who have serious expertise, the brain dump should be as easy as a conversation.
The knowledge sharing process will transform totally the education system and once we decentralize the knowledge sharing, every single brand will accumulate followers by the knowledge it shares. Listen Pat Flynn’s Brand Loyalty and a 19th Century Strategy You Can Use to Get it and see how he personally uses it, and you will understand how it works.
It would be kind of charity from the brand and also proof of their expertise for the clients. Every single person will be able to gain knowledge from every single brand or influencer just by following him.
The typical following model will involve reading and listening brain dumps, commenting, interacting with the influencer, exchanging ideas with other like minded people, following idea contests and also job boards.
Every single brand and every single influencer would have job boards, where they would refer positions opened in their business and also jobs which are opened currently from treir trusted contacts and brands. This will shorten the distance between the universities and the business tremendously and will help the best and most-familiar with the brand people to take the job positions from it.
II. The social media decentralization from technical point of view:
1) the profile based on WordPress
The profiles I propose to be based on WordPress, because WordPress is under GPLv2 license from the Free Software Foundation and all the social media decentralization platforms must comply with the free software values.
WordPress is already used by 60 million+ people worldwide, and it’s the most preferred platform for blogging. It could scale really fast as a social network, as it has great accessibility and usability, made for people with different levels of computer skills.
It’s very easy for both professionals and nonprofessionals to extend it, as it has active community providing help for everybody willing to learn something new.
The easy customization allows thousands of volunteers and commercial organizations to create design and functional customizations via plugins, design themes and even whole specialized commercial frameworks. The active community and great support contributes a lot for the quick iteration of new ideas.
One of the problems all centralized social networks like Facebook have is that they are trying to create one-size-fits-all solution, with very minimal options for customizations. Here we can overcome that and create adjustable solution which everybody could customize according his own preferences.
2) the social browser – it will become reality when we decentralize the web property.
What I think about the social browser is that it will become reality when we decentralize our social media properly. The social browser will come as coverage “interface” to the social media and if we create our social media formats properly we would be able to aggregate them and manage them in much better way. The social browser would look like a tool which will have functionality like browsing profiles, instant messaging, observing and organizing groups of people, organizing and analyzing data.
The social browser, similar to the social profile, would have core and extendable features, so it won’t be one-size-fits-all.
The first type of plugins, developed for the social browser I think would be the aggregation and search plug-ins. The search plug-ins would search for people and information and would be developed by different companies like Google or Yahoo are Bing and the purpose of the plug-ins would be the best possible search in certain area like the best possible search for movies, images, videos. The aggregation plugins will aggregate regularly information regarding some topics or social models. The concepts of the plugins will be iterated and extended depending on the demand of social media analysis and there will be involved volunteers and commercial organizations.
3) the contacts management with functionality like a CRM
The contact management of every single profile would look more like a CRM. It would be equipped with functionality not available now any social media. It would be simple, but upgreadable so the people who want more advanced options would be able to upgrade with plug-ins and analytics options. The people would be able to create campaigns, look at statistics, save more information about their contacts, for example personal information they shared with them via other medias.
4) the business intelligence we will have and which will be extended as much as we need to
What would be very specific about the decentralized web is that the business intelligence that is currently created on the basis of our profiles and social contacts, won’t be available only to the big corporations like Facebook, LinkedIn, but to us, also. Every single social network now has serious business intelligence layer above the information we share and once we decentralize the web we will be able to use also such, based on our networks.
The privacy of our business intelligence layer is very essential, and now we have almost no control on it. Only the few corporations who maintain our profiles have such control.
5) the privacy of the data we set
The privacy of the data everybody sets would be really advanced and it would come with features which the community selects, so there won’t be options for example like now to have mandatory common contacts shown between you and your acquaintances or unknown people, if you don’t want to. Now you cannot disable it on Facebook or LinkedIn or if you want some privacy setting which is not available, you cannot vote for its creation. Everything the people have as a data would come with all the possible settings to share it or not.
6) the hosting we will support by providing personal clouds and forming decentralized cloud
The hosting in terms of social media decentralization would look like a cloud which we will support by sharing resources of our private servers. I believe one day everybody would have his own private server and we would be able to share the free resources of our servers anytime flexibly. This way if eventually something happens on one server, and our data is lost there, it would be recoverable from another server without problems.
There are much more ideas to be added here. I’ll leave the outline for now as version 1.0 and it will be its first iteration. I’ll extend all the ideas when I get feedback and questions from you, which I’ll really appreciate. I think about creating mind-maps, or some project tree, let me know what do you think about this.
Please feel free to share your feedback in a comment below, or using my contact form.
¹ monetization – to utilize (something of value) as a source of profit