Recently a new social media platform named steem went live and became available for anyone interested. This new platform allows users to post all kinds of stories, video’s, images, short twitter-like posts and even questions in search for an answer. In fact anything that people would like to share, discuss or promote has a place on steem. It allows scientists to publish their papers, companies to inform people about their products and bloggers to build their reputation. Anything that people want off their chests or think others might like can be posted there.
The new thing about steem is that the content people put up there allows for making money by the author and all other users of the platform. Users can publish their own content, upvote content of others or enter discussions with each other. The more this content is appreciated by others, the more money the initiating users receive. This incentive structure is built into all parts of the system. Comments, upvotes and publishing content, it all allows users to get rewarded by readers and viewers with money. The system combines the blogs from medium, the upvotes of reddit, the likes of facebook and the ability to comment from disqus. Reputation on steem does not translate to karma or some other virtual asset but ultimately to cold hard cash.
The technology that supports this system is based on a cryptocurrency called steem with a blockchain that manages the governance of all the (public) content and the transactions – being appreciation in the form of steem – between users. An interesting aspect is that there’s no company behind the platform that can intervene with the content users create by posting, voting and commenting. The money, called steem – a derivative of esteem – is managed by the system in a smart way that nudges the users to create more meaningful content. When i came across the steamit.com website that implements the technology I immediately understood the impact of this concept because i’ve developed a similar technology last year that did the same thing partially: monetizing upvotes on blogs using cryptocurrency. Generously admitted: this system is much more interesting as it has a dedicated distributed ledger underneath, that has many custom features, allowing for an entire new ecosystem to flourish around this new blockchain technology.
After using steamit for some days I’ve became accustomed to it fairly quickly, considering it is a very early beta release and, more important, it got me coming back over and over. I even caught myself going back and forth between youtube and steamit to see on steamit how much a certain video was ‘valued’ with upvotes. And this is what got me thinking. If this systems really takes off and is able to leave its current experimental (and not entirely hack-proof) phase successfully behind and keeps developing, this might become the one stop system to go to for all kinds of media appetite people have. If, in practice, the incentive structure is proven useful in the long term, there soon will finally no longer be any reason to use youtube’s embarrassing ordering of content, as content on steem potentially will be much better ranked than the job youtube is doing.
I guess only time will tell. What is fascinating is that everyone who wants to do so can innovate on top of the underlying blockchain technology. If you want you can use the platform to even build your very own steamit.com alternative. With smarter sorting algorithms, slick graphics and more customization features. The steem blockchain could not care less as it is out there and willing to deliver to any system that uses it and improves on it. And this attitude is similar to the common attitude of the people that use social media. They just want the best out there. If steem perpetuates it’s precipitous adoption growth and maintains to deliver a user-friendly and working platform, soon more people will use the system because it allows for a better ranking and selection of content, as it’s algorithms are based on human valuation rather than the opaque algorithms youtube uses for example.
The system had a very good beta release as the total value of the network, expressed in the market capitalization of the steem cryptocurrency, gained not less than a 1000 percent since it’s initial release, swiftly resulting in a number three rank on the ladder of all cryptocurrencies currently in existence. Positioning right after bitcoin and ethereum is not a bad achievement considering the very short time the system exists. If this success prevails or steem is outpaced by some follow-up technology there’s a good chance the only thing left for youtube is hosting the video’s people watch on these – to the community – more inclusive platforms. Youtube would be left to host these video’s on that what remains of their already unimaginative repository.
Let’s just see what happens. One thing is for sure. As long as youtube, the company, is the only one allowed to improve the user experience of youtube’s proprietary technology, geeks, hobbyists, designers and professionals can’t be retained to improve open platforms like steem.
Also published on Medium.