Social media and Web3 are fundamentally intertwined. Social media technically came first, with the arrival of the SixDegrees.com network in 1997, while the first cryptocurrency – Bitcoin – was created in 2009. Despite this, they both went mainstream at a similar time. In 2012, Bitcoin’s first halving took place, and the cryptocurrency had a market capitalization of $143 million. The same year, Facebook announced that it had amassed an incredible one billion users. This was just the beginning.
The last ten years have seen the inexorable rise of both, with an incredible 4.9 billion users of social media worldwide (as of March 2023) and an estimated 420 million people who have interacted with cryptocurrencies. While the latter figure is of course not quite as high, it nevertheless represents 4.2% of the world’s population, and is still growing rapidly.
It makes sense that these two developments in human society have dovetailed so well in the last decade, given that they are both attempting to do similar things, albeit in different spheres. Fundamentally, Web3 and social media are attempts to decentralize something that was previously highly centralized.
In the past, there was a clear distinction between the editorial team of a newspaper and its readership – the former had a voice and the latter didn’t. This meant that the public conversation was kept in the hands of a few people. With social media, there has been a leveling between newspapers and their readers: they all inhabit the same platforms, and use their profiles to make their voices heard. In theory, a user with a popular account might have even greater reach than the legacy platform they’re engaging with.
In the case of cryptocurrency, it represents a huge change from fiat systems where the money supply is controlled by a central bank. Cryptocurrency protocols are highly diverse, but everybody who participates in a blockchain is able to make an informed decision based on the principles of how it functions and, in the case of many, holding governance tokens means participants can propose changes and vote on modifications to those protocols. The distribution of value and the decision-making processes are vastly more decentralized compared with fiat systems, and that’s without even mentioning monetary unions like the Eurozone, whereby sovereign states don’t even control their money supply.
Cryptocurrency and social media are about decentralizing and, as many would argue, democratizing value and the public conversation respectively. It is therefore no surprise that social media offers a perfect venue for discussions about the value Web3 and crypto are attempting to redefine and redistribute. To put it simply: people love talking about crypto on social media, and many of the biggest crypto projects are far more active on social media than central banks and other financial and money lending institutions.
One interesting example of the relationship between Web3 and social media is WiFi Map. The platform started out in 2014, at the height of the mobile app boom and in the middle of the decade that saw crypto and social media rise to almost universal recognition. Its first core feature was a crowdsourced WiFi finder: anybody could add a new hotspot to a global database where it would be shared with other users, who were constantly populating the map with the hotspots they encountered in their daily lives or on their travels.
The project enjoyed incredible network effects in its first few years, and reached 150 million downloads in the App Store and Google Play with almost no marketing at all. Despite the success of this approach, the fundamental premise of the app is both highly social and decentralized, so it didn’t come as too much of a surprise when in summer 2022 the company took the step of announcing a major pivot to Web3 with the launch of $WIFI, an internal utility token for the WiFi Map ecosystem. It must be acknowledged that this kind of full-scale pivot from Web 2.0 to Web3 is a relatively new phenomenon, and we can expect to see much more of it in future.
The shift has brought with it many new features in the app itself, including competitive eSIM mobile data packages that can be easily used in combination with the millions of free WiFi hotspots that are available in over 200 countries, and VPN protection. It has also taken place in tandem with a new approach to how the company uses social media. In addition to existing profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Medium and Instagram, WiFi Map is now very active on Telegram and Discord. It has used social media to keep its user base informed about updates from the app and ecosystem, and to share announcements about the $WIFI token launch, which was held on the TrustSwap Launchpad on 30 March, followed by a token generation event and listing on OKX on 7 April.
Beyond this, it has also done what many successful Web3 organizations are doing: interacting with the broader ecosystem and other projects in DeWi (decentralized wireless), and building a community of like-minded people who share the company’s values of universal, accessible internet and connectivity, decentralization, crowdsourcing, and the embracing of new technologies. Additionally, a new app feature that arrived in late April highlights the social and community elements, allowing users to send a tip in $WIFI to thank other users who added the hotspots they connect to.
WiFi Map is just at the start of its Web3 journey, but the results so far are very exciting. At the time of writing, the platform has 22,500 members in its Telegram community hub, 75,000 people on its Discord server, and over 110,000 Twitter followers. If some of Web3’s biggest players like Bitcoin and Ethereum are anything to go by, it’s this kind of activity that will ultimately cut through to the general public and accelerate mass adoption.
Just as social media has had a huge impact on the course of Web3’s development, so too is the crypto space impacting social media. Decentralized social networks represent an emerging trend, driven in part by a dissatisfaction with a number of leading social media platforms as well as a desire to bring the principles of decentralization to as many areas of life as possible. One example is SocialBlox, an ad-free, blockchain-based social media platform that was described as a potential rival to TikTok in a Cointelegraph article earlier this month.