After spending hours researching the internet, one is these days at a loss in the ecosystem of digital world with overwhelming amount of information. Blockchain is set to change the way we market to users online.
Currently, there are a large number of keyword research tools, large global networks like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn etc. In the continuous buzz of the digital droplets you can find yourself intermingled with several social media and advertising networks like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and adsense, admob, etc for your marketing needs.
Although great in their use and they certainly provide amazing connectivity, sharability and freedom of content unknown during the infancy of the internet, most of these platforms use your personal data to provide these services. They do so by tracking your movement over the internet and then using analytics over the data to understand and assimilate your surfing or buying habits online.
However, we have yet to discover new ways of marketing to consumers over blockchain based services which are now starting to gain larger use.
So what does this have to do with the blockchain and how the internet works ?
Well quite a bit. Based on how earlier ecosystems like Google, Facebook etc have evolved in the digital world there is a deep concept around centralized control of these services, i.e one company who owns, operates and controls these services. And hence control of the way content is viewed online by us as users.
What it was like earlier…
Earlier, during the initial stages of the internet and when users started coming online and using services like ICQ (internet based chatting software) during the formation of the internet the very nature of it was decentralized i.e your data was yours to keep and you were still connected to everyone else over the internet.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of most large digital networks like Google, Facebook, Instagram in what they provide currently as an unparalleled way of communicating and connecting with each other. However, the very nature of the internet emphasized decentralized control and the next generation of block-chain based services are really set to change the digital landscape in this context within the next few years.
I’m not specifically talking about bitcoin here but rather its underlying tech the blockchain. In very simple terms, a blockchain is a P2P technology (Peer-to-peer) which allows one computer to be connected to another via an internet based software. The condition here is that the way of connecting is decentralized – meaning both you and I would have equal control, share and usage of the internet. No questions asked.
Enter the Blockchain
The tech has been around a while now and earlier more commonly known and used as P2P based software such as Napster (the infamous file sharing service) which was used to share files over the internet.
So, if you and I are connected through a digital application over the internet and then more join us in the same way with each transaction taking placed recorded on a ledger record which is shared, kept and verified on each computer on that network – that’s essentially a blockchain network.
Here’s the Wikipedia definition –
“A blockchain, originally block chain, is a growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a merkle tree root hash).”
To make it simpler, its an internet based bookkeeping system which piles up records of transactions called blocks with one block digitally connected to another through a cryptographic link. Each block has a separate key to unlock. So by exchanging information on the block chain you end up adding new entries into the ledger maintained.
Hence, when another computer connects to the blockchain network, an entry is placed into the general ledger with a time-stamp. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires consensus of the network majority.
Is it secure ?
Although blockchain records are not unalterable, blockchains may be considered secure by design and exemplify a distributed computing system with high fault tolerance. By design, a blockchain is resistant to modification of the data and also resists attempts by hacker manipulation.
There are two fundamental ways this is achieved :
Allow changes to the general ledger (transaction record keeping) only when more than one user authorizes the exchange or transaction.
Allow additions or changes when the client has spent a sufficient amount of time on difficult mathematical calculations which would take large amount of CPU computation to achieve.
This concept is inverse to the idea of centralized connections in which a centralized main computer is connected to other computers which controls the traffic on the network. The list of records on a blockchain network grows continuously. As the blockchain doesn’t have a centralized point, it doesn’t have a single point of failure, and hence is less vulnerable.
And as your applications are now decentralized, they are placed on each node on the internet with an incredible amount of fault tolerance.
Why is decentralization important ?
So, what benefits does this have to you ? Since all of the members are connected in an equal way no one computer has a right over the other. There is decentralized control of use.
Currently, As digital marketeers we reach people who may or may not be interested in our services, however in a blockchain network depending on the way social networks are created we could have a highly curated base of target consumers for our products or services by interest. As they would have to vouch for it.
So while there are several non blockchain based social media networks out there, a new lot of new startups in social media using blockchain have come in to change the way we think and use these services. As more people jump on the blockchain bandwagon the number of blockchain based social networks are increasing both in number and in users.
SteemIt is the first blockchain based social network where every user gets a monetary incentive to post content and contribute on the internet as a community of bloggers and publishers. People posting content earn rewards on the platform in the form of steem tokens which are tradeable and easily convertible to Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Indorse.io is a similar platform to LinkedIn where skills are added and validated in a simple decentralized blockchain way.
Akasha is a decentralized social media network powered by the Ethereum and is still in the early stages of development. For marketeers and users both alike, this may well be a consent based solution and thanks to the blockchain we can have more control over who accesses your private data.
Then there are new inter planetary additions like IPFS and several others in the making. App developers can now build applications via known tech like React, Angular etc and mold their app data store into the blockchain using IPFS a new revolutionary blockchain based file system.
ZeroNet is a very interesting distributed platform for content publishing and sharing. It has some strong properties, which are very interesting to bypass censorship and online hosting costs. It has been around for quite sometime and is in a similar league. These systems are also secure from the widely known DOS (Denial of Service) attacks i.e attempts by hackers to shutdown a website and deny access to it via the internet. Look, as a web developer, you don’t want to mess with hosting and hoping that your site stays online.
With ZeroNet, you click a button, and instantly have a web address to use. You upload your work and hit sign/publish and it’s instantly available. You can give the link to a friend, and now your site is available online forever. The more people on the blockchain, the faster and more reliable it is.
At the end of the day, most of the current internet based services take user data as a form of monetization and blockchain is a way to give back control of this information back to the user. Some of the new blockchain based services go further to provide the user an incentive if you plan to give your data out to such services.
So my two cents are that once we see these services rapidly evolving into larger ecosystems harbouring billions of users we will find ourselves in an entirely new and exciting digital universe with some services coming to the forefront.
And of course, this will be another opportunity for digital marketeers to foray into these networks and get the word out for their products or services in a decentralized way.