In a blog post, entitled “The Decentral Authority”, venture capitalist Fred Wilson revealed his opinion on the future of the popular news website Reddit. According to Wilson, the media platform should rely on the blockchain, a decentralised ledger that stores bitcoin transactions.
Currently, Reddit is run by thousands of unpaid moderators who produce the largest part of the website’s content.
Over the last few weeks, the website has been criticized for the way it censors content and for the dismissal of Victoria Taylor, Reddit’s director of talent. Following the firing of a popular staff member, a number of the site’s moderators in protest closed their sections, including such subreddits as /r/history, /r/movies, /r/AskReddit and /r/gaming.
Over 150,000 users have even signed a petition for interim chief executive Ellen Pao to step down. Later, Pao and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian issued apologies and promised to improve communication with the community.
Some users discussed that the news site is about to shut down, as the protest can cause serious problems for its future.
Wilson believes the use of the blockchain technology will solve problems with content regulation, as the decision to censor information will depend on the clients and moderators.
“It may be that there is no viable middle ground between a centrally controlled media platform and an entirely decentralized media platform. You are either going to police the site or you are going to build something that cannot be policed even if you want to,” Wilson wrote.
“The interesting thing about an entirely decentralized media platform is that you can have clients that choose to curate, police, and censor and clients that choose not to. Twitter, as originally architected, could have headed down this path. But for many reasons, reasons I supported to be clear, it chose not to. But someone is going to go there. And I think it will happen soon. And I think it most likely will be built on the blockchain,” he stated.
If powered by the blockchain technology, the platform would not need a company to control it as the blockchain entries, confirmed by the network of computers, will serve that function.
A bitcoin engineer and former Reddit employee Ryan X. Charles described in a blog post how the media platform with no central authority could work.
“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,” Charles wrote.
The users can send bitcoin to the author of the content thus urging them to produce good content. Reddit would still exist, but wouldn’t have control of hosting the site’s content. Instead, anyone could create content and would be paid for it.
Charles noted that during the work at Reddit, he was involved in the development of the website’s own cryptocurrency and also worked on the entire decentralization of Reddit. However, the project was not realized and Charles left the company.
The decision to make Reddit a decentralized platform implies a lot of risks and raises the question of whether social media companies might need to continue their operations.
“To be clear, this does not mean the end of Reddit or Twitter or any other of the current media platforms that are out there,” Wilson wrote.
“But there is also a very interesting opportunity to build a truly decentralized media platform. I am not sure it will be a good business. I am not sure it will even be a business. But it can be a very powerful community and platform,” he said.