With the ongoing Cambridge Analytica Scandal, Facebook is in the worst position than they have been in a long time. The social media company has always struggled with privacy questions, but this scandal seems to have a lasting power not often seen in today’s hyper active media. There are dozens, if not hundreds of social media sites hoping to attract some of the disaffected and disillusioned Facebook users. Minds is one of these companies and their focus on privacy, free speech and cryptocurrencies puts it in good position to scoop some of them up.
Minds already has a robust community and a built-in monetization model using an internal virtual currency called points. Tuesday, they released a white paper on their new features, primarily their token, aptly named Minds Tokens.
The idea is to take the monetization of social media sites like Facebook and YouTube and give it to the content creators. Every day new tokens will be released onto the Minds network based on how often users used the site and how much their content was interacted with and viewed. In addition, these tokens can be used between users within the site, for tipping, subscriptions and advertising.
There are a few obvious pitfalls to this plan, and Minds is working to address them head-on. On Steemit, a Reddit-like site that uses two different cryptocurrencies to reward content creators, there have been accusations of centralization leading to favoritism. On Steemit, holding one type of crypto determines how influential your likes and shares are and therefore how much of the other cryptocurrency you earn.
Minds’ approach is a bit different. There is no secondary cryptocurrency that determines your influence. Everyone has the same influence and anyone wanting to monetize their Minds Tokens will need to go through an identity verification process. That last part is to head off the other obvious pitfall with their plan: people using multiple accounts and artificially inflating their engagement.
People who do not wish to monetize their posts are able to join Minds without giving up any personal information, not even requiring an email. However, if they want to withdraw the Minds Tokens that they have earned, they will have to provide some information. This should limit the number of bots on the site, but I could foresee a situation where anonymous accounts are used to prop up a verified account and make it look like it has a lot of engagement.
But that brings me to the next important feature of Minds: It is open source. There have been plenty of complaints about Steemit’s monetization model. Investigating the validity of those complaints is beyond the scope of this article but the point is that with Minds, anyone can take what is already built and make their own version of it. And that is something Minds CEO Bill Ottman supports, telling me in an interview that he foresees a future where Minds forks can interact with vanilla Minds in various capacities if they choose to.
If someone finds a way to game the system, there is an opportunity for the community to fix it. If Minds doesn’t want to take their fix, then the community can move on with their own system.
But ideally, Minds wants to keep those users on their platform. Thanks to the open-source nature of both the platform and the smart contracts that determine the payouts of new Minds tokens, the increased transparency will encourage them to work with their community rather than hiding problems like Facebook seemingly did prior to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Of course, none of that matters if Minds can’t get over the hump and gather some of the fall out from the Facebook scandal. Minds currently has about a million total users, with about 105k of those being active regularly. That provides enough of a base for there to be people to interact with, but it still has a long way to go to reach the critical mass necessary to become the next big social media platform.
There are a lot of things that must go right for that to happen. The monetization method sounds great, but will it work in practice? Will someone find a way to game it that isn’t easily fixed? Will large numbers of people be interested in using and obtaining Minds Tokens? Those are questions that will be answered in the coming months, and the result could determine Minds’ fate.
Plus, there is always the unknown of fickle social media users. It is seemingly impossible to predict what will become the next social media phenomenon. That is why the landscape is filled with ill fated attempts, many of them from social media companies that were successful in the past. That is also why so many of them now purchase new competition rather than create their own (a perfect example is how Facebook’s Slingshot failed, so they purchased Instagram and Whatsapp instead).
There is no telling if Minds can break through the crowded field based on its commitment to privacy, free speech and cryptocurrencies. Those things appeal to me and likely appeal to large parts of the Bitcoin community, but will it appeal enough to mainstream users to get them on board?
If not, its ceiling is probably closer to what Steemit has accomplished than Facebook. But if the mainstream does prove interested, it could quickly become the largest crypto focused social media site and possibly more. If it gets that far, it will have an affect not just on the cryptocurrency community, but the entire online world.