Talking tech since 2003

As the social media climate heats up, some users see corporations as the enemy and blockchain as a cure. One company, Narrative, is trying to combine the two concepts into one social network by the people, for the people, and with (almost) all revenues going to the people.

If you had to choose the top buzzwords of 2017, I’ll bet that one would be “social media” and the other would be “blockchain”.

Social media has been through a lot this year: it’s promoted fake news and fought them, it’s seen wildly controversial scandals from the Russian election hacking to the sexual harassment accusations, and it’s brought about powerful social awareness campaigns like #metoo. With multiple platforms constantly adding features and ever growing in popularity, and especially with the political climate, social media has never been more ingrained in our lives. By this point, it’s almost like another body part.

While social media busied itself with political and social righteous anger, another technological phenomenon began, and brought with it buzzwords such as “blockchain,” “bitcoin,” and “decentralization.” Blockchain and cryptocurrency, according to their advocates, hold the promise of taking the power from corporations and giving it back to the people — those who hold the bank accounts, those who buy the products, and now, those who take part in social media.

This is where Narrative comes in. Narrative describes itself as a “content economy.” It’s a social network that lets users post content, both textual and visual. Narrative’s platform features three different channels: A personal journal for writers to create their own content freely, “niches” which are separated by topic and allow for discussion between members, and “brands,” which are owned and powered by organizations, both profit and non-profit.

Narrative decentralizes social networking in two ways. First, users are given complete control over moderating the content that’s posted. Members rate and monitor content, and elect moderators and a “tribunal,” a kind of Supreme Court, a move Narrative says will eliminate “bad eggs” from the community. This is meant to create an level of transparency that today’s social networks sadly don’t allow. The users’ level of control is such that they even decide what ads are allowed to run on the platform.

Second, users are rewarded for their contributions and efforts in the form of cryptocurrency, namely the NRV token. This doesn’t mean that Narrative members need to be crypto experts or Bitcoin buyers — in fact, no knowledge of cryptocurrency is needed, and users can also choose to be compensated in fiat currency instead of the NRV token. The NRV token sale will launch on January 16, 2017.

Narrative is not the only emerging social network to use blockchain, and it won’t be the last. Like any other social network, Narrative will need to withstand the test of time, and of popularity. Without a strong user base, the noble goals of transparency and complete user control will not have the intended powerful effect. It will be interesting, though, to see what type of consumers will become Narrative’s user base. Will it be another Google+, used primarily by brands? Will it be a platform for money-making by aspiring social media influencers? Will it become a breeding ground for discussion, and if so, will decentralization bring the quality up or down? We’ll have to wait until Narrative’s launch to find out.

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