Ryan X Charles was thrust into the cryptocurrency spotlight when he was publicly hired as Reddit’s “Cryptocurrency engineer” but midway through his project, reddit’s management changed, Charles was unceremoniously canned and the cryptocurrency projects were cancelled. Last Sunday, months after his departure, Charles is finally speaking out about what he was doing at Reddit before it all went wrong.
In his account, posted on Medium July 5 and titled “Fix reddit with bitcoin” Charles explains that the now aborted reddit branded cryptocurrency that made headlines when it was announced, was not the initial goal when reddit hired him. Rather than simply issue a decentralized currency as was publicly planned, reddit initially hired Charles to make Reddit itself decentralized.
It doesn’t sound that much different than Maidsafe or Storj or what has been speculated Kim Dotcom’s teased “blockchain project” will be, only applied to reddit:
“The way a decentralized reddit [would work] is like this. Each user has an app, the reddit app, which connects to the reddit p2p network. For most users, the app is a normal web app. Each user funds their own app with a small amount of bitcoin. In order to download content, the user pays a very, very small amount of bitcoin to the peers on the network. This incentivizes people to keep the app open so as to keep servicing the other users. Furthermore, when a user upvotes content, that sends a small amount of bitcoin to the author of that content, thus incentivizing the production of good content. If all the content is authenticated, we can be reasonably sure most payments are going to the right people.
In this scenario, reddit, Inc. still exists, they just don’t have a monopoly on the hosting of reddit content. Instead, anyone can run the app to host the content, and reddit, Inc. is just the biggest service provider. Any user can run a business by running the app full-time. Any user, including reddit, Inc., can censor content they themselves deliver to other users, but cannot censor content other users send to other users.”
Almost immediately after being hired however, reddit announced that it had secured an additional $50 million in funding and that it would be giving back 10% of that to the users in the form of a cryptocurrency. Charles transitioned his work on that for a short time before management changed, dropped everything crypto-related and let Charles go.
Ryan X Charles never threw away what work he managed to complete on the decentralized reddit and indicated that he is open to collaborating with other developers on it. He has open-sourced what he has figured out so far, so perhaps we will get the future he and reddit got us to imagine after all.
A uncensorable and completely free Reddit could have massive implications for society as a whole. How long would it take for r/jailbait to be revived on the uncensorable, decentralized reddit? Would users who download the reddit app and fail to block that kind of content or worse, be held responsible as if they had downloaded and shared it in a more traditional way?
Those answers, I suspect, will come with time. It may evolve out of what Ryan X Charles started at reddit, or it may come from a yet undeveloped and un-conceived of project, but uncensorable and distributed social media sites are coming and we will have to learn to deal with them one way or another.