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Lens Protocol - Social Media for Web3
Giving control and ownership back to the users
Welcome to the alpha please newsletter. We curate alpha for you. That’s it; that’s the newsletter.
Hey everyone, I hope you are all thriving and surviving. This newsletter is about Lens Protocol. I have spent some time researching the protocol and wanted to share this exciting web3 solution to social media.
What’s to come?
What is Lens Protocol?
Why do we need Lens Protocol?
Who’s behind Lens Protocol?
How does Lens Protocol work?
Lens Protocol social reaction
What is Lens Protocol?
Lens Protocol is a composable and permissionless social graph built on top of the Polygon blockchain.
It is designed to empower creators to own the links between themselves and their community, forming a fully composable, user-owned social graph.
But, what is a social graph?
In the context of a blockchain, a graph is an indexing protocol.
Indexing reduces the time needed to find a particular piece of information. An easy to understand example of this is an index in a book, which helps you find the page where that information might exist.
Without the use of graphs you would have to search each recorded block in a blockchain in order to find the information you were looking for. Obviously this is no bueno as it would take a long time.
TLDR: Graphs bring order, structure, and connection to data in a way that makes it easier and quicker to query and find specific information you need.
The success of Facebook comes down to the concept of the social graph, a term coined by Mark Zuckerberg. It’s not a graph you would see in a maths textbook and is easier to think of as simply a data structure.
Facebook explained it as drawing an edge between you and the people, places, and things you interact with online.
A social graph creates all of the social relationships between accounts, helping with order and structure in the world of social media in order to offer a richer, more engaging experience.
Lens is not a social network by itself. It is better to think about it is an infrastructure layer, which developers can build applications (social platforms) on top of. Just like Ethereum is a platform that people can build on, Lens is conceptually similar.
Why do we need Lens Protocol?
The idea of decentralised social media platforms might make a lot of sense to crypto natives, but is possibly less obvious to everyone else.
If we want an open and free internet, we need open and free social media networks. The majority of internet users spend most of their time on the major social media platforms.
These major social media platforms determine what users see and don’t see, have the power to censor content/profiles they don’t like and control all of the user data.
There is no portability with web2 social platforms. Your profile, friends, and content are locked to a specific network and owned by the network operator. This causes each network to fight a zero-sum game for your attention.
Network effects are fundamental to social media and they require these platforms to keep users attention, no matter the cost to the user. The algorithm only cares about increasing your dwell time on the app, as this increases earnings.
Both Stani (founder of AAVE and co-founder of Lens Protocol) and the official Bankless YouTube channel were deplatformed recently. They have since recovered their accounts, but for content creators the threat of having your account deleted is real.
As I said before, social networks and the content populated on those platforms dominate the usage of the internet. So, you could say that a few companies are in control of the internet and what people are seeing on the World wide Web.
I don’t think I need to explain why this is a bad thing, or what the most dystopian outcome for the world is as a result of this power dynamic. The power to shape what the global population thinks should not be in the hands of a few corporations.
Lens Protocol is looking to solve many of these problems and provide the tooling to spawn new alternative decentralised social media platforms.
Lens can unlock network effects for developers. This is a huge moat for the major centralised platforms. Now anyone can build their own social media dApp on top of the existing network.
Lens is also looking to put the creator economy back in the hands of the creators. The success of today’s social media platforms is mostly a result of amazingly talented content creators, but the value capture is very, very skewed towards the corporations.
Some creators do very well from a few of the major video/social platforms, but this clip demonstrates how poorly TikTok is giving back to their creators:
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Who’s behind the Lens Protocol?
From now on you own your profile, the content you create and your social network”
~ Stani Kulechov
You may be asking yourself why AAVE are developing this? Well, someone needed to to build a decentralised social media protocol fit for web3, but AAVE might also be thinking about how to use reputation scores in order for users to access under-collateralized credit. This is just speculation, but as Croissant says the “intersection of DeFi & NFTs is obvious”.
How does Lens Protocol work?
Lens Protocol is built with modularity in mind. It makes use of NFTs in order to give users and creators ownership of everything.
Everything is essentially an NFT all the way down.
The Profile NFT is the main primitive in the Lens Protocol. It is ownership over this NFT that gives you control of your content.
Users who signed the open letter last year, now have the capability to mint their profiles. It should be rolled out for everyone soon.
Individual addresses own Profile NFTs, and an address can contain multiple Profile NFTs. Profile NFTs hold the history of all posts, comments, mirrors, and other contents a user creates.
What differentiates the Lens Profile NFT from other on-chain identities is the ability to post Publications to it.
Publications are posted directly to a user's Profile NFTs; this ensures that all content created by a user remains user-owned and in their wallet.
Publications come in three primary types: posts, comments, and mirrors.
Publications also have two attached modules, a Collect Module, and a Reference Module. The collect module allows users to mint publications as an NFT, or in other words “collect” posts. The reference module determines who can mint and mirror (share) the posts.
Comments allow users to provide additional commentary on other publications. Like Publications, comments live in the user's Profile NFT and therefore are wholly owned by the user.
Since Comments reference other publications, the profile that owns the Publication can limit the comments only to accounts who follow the original poster, and if the commenter does not hold a Follow NFT their comment, which is a transaction, will fail.
Mirrors are the curation tool of the Lens Protocol. They are the protocol's equivalent to reposting (sharing) or re-amplifying content.
Mirrored users can earn a cut of the revenue from anyone who collects the original content through the re-share. This creates even more of an incentive for users to share amazing content. Curating is also type of content creation and Lens Protocol is built to reward this.
Collects allow creators to monetise their content. Because creators own their content, they are able to allow their followers to purchase that content. Users are in control of whether they allow people to to mint their publications for a set period of time, how many can be minted, and for what price. This can be customised however the user decides.
When users follow a profile on the Lens Protocol, they are given a Follow NFT, which creators and communities can encode with additional value. For example, a profile could require a user to pay 5 MATIC to receive a Follow NFT.
Follow NFTs also have built-in governance capabilities, such as vote delegation, to allow for the creation of Social DAOs. Creators, DAOs, or other organisations can create voting strategies using Follow NFTs and their various properties. For example: "The first 1000 follows have one vote each" or "The longer you have followed, the more voting power you have."
This is another great explanation of how Lens Protocol works:
Ultimately, the Lens Protocol empowers its users by allowing them to decide how they want their social graph to be built and how they want it to be monetised, if at all.
The Lens Protocol just launched and there many dApps live in beta. Since users own their data, they can bring it to any application built on top of Lens Protocol.
There are a reported 50+ dApps that are building on Lens Protocol.
I’ll highlight a few here:
Lenster is a social media platform build on Lens Protocol. Right now it looks like a decentralised Twitter.
There is already a prototype app available to test curtesy of Miguel.
Lenster are showing how you can use the Lens Protocol functionality to build simple features so that content creators can be rewarded for their work.
How about decentralised Cameo? CLIPTO is the brainchild of crypto content creator Gabriel Haines.
You can book Gabriel to cheer you up right now.
Iris could be described as a decentralised Patreon with live streaming capability.
Transactions are also gasless.
I’ve just come across an app in development that further showcases what is possible with Lens. Harfang is a platform that will allow you to buy and sell trip memories using NFTs.
I also had the same opinion as DeFi Dad intially, but the speed of innovation has got me excited that Lens might be taking off much quicker than anticipated.
Lens Protocol makes it possible for devs to quickly create social media apps, as they don’t have to build the underlying infrastructure.
Christina articulating her thoughts.
You can see the Lens NFTs on OpenSea now.
Popular Ethereum thread writer Crypto-Gucci has been having his Twitter account restricted recently, which is one problem Lens is looking to solve.
This developer built a browser extension to help onboard Twitter users to Lens without leaving their feed.
Will there be a token?
There has been no communication regarding a potential token thus far. Lens is controlled by a community multisig consisting of trusted parties throughout the Web3 ecosystem. I think there is a good chance there will be an airdrop of tokens to users in the future, as I’m sure they want to decentralise the protocol, but this is just pure speculation from me.
Generally speaking, it pays to be a web3 user. Join the Lens discord, claim a handle when they re-open the minting of profiles, post some content and use the protocol. There are many dApps you can get stuck into as well. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
What are the challenges?
Decentralised social media needs to compete with the very popular centralised platforms. This will be no easy task. There have been a few well funded attempts in the past. Remember Bitclout? They rebranded to Deso and I haven’t seen much about them on my timeline.
Can Lens scale? Yes, but only when the underlying blockchain scales. Polygon has committed to being one of the main players attempting to help Ethereum scale with its various L2 solutions.
The number of transactions that need to be recorded on a blockchain for a functional social media network is beyond where we are right now, and it’s probably the most intensive scaling application that I can think of for blockchains.
It shouldn’t be too hard to port Lens Protocol over to the best solution (maybe Starknet) once the tech is ready. In the meantime, Polygon is one of the cheapest options for transactions, still quite a bit cheaper than ORUs and is working on their own scaling roadmap.
The co-founder of the Graph Protocol (a decentralised indexing protocol) has suggested the fact Lens are running the indexing part of the stack means it can’t be called decentralised.
Here is the explanation for why the Lens team are using a custom indexer:
There is lots to figure out here as it’s clear that there could be a centralised point of failure. However, applications can choose to build a subgraph using Graph Protocol.
There are a ton of other challenges (how to manage censorship of illegal content, decentralising the protocol etc.) but I am still excited by the Lens Protocol innovation nonetheless. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
If you are keen on diving deeper into Lens, here are a few resources:
Read the developer docs, get inspiration for a project you may want to build and apply for a grant to build it ➡️ lens.xyz/garden
How to get started with Lens:
Eda offers some useful tips for building with Lens here.
NiftyTable has set up a Dune dashboard that is tracking the on-chain Lens Protocol data.
And that’s your alpha.
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Not financial or tax advice. This newsletter is strictly educational and is not investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. Do your own research.