Your Web3 Garden: What Is Lens Protocol?

Your Web3 Garden: What Is Lens Protocol?

Tired of being at the mercy of social media platforms’ algorithms and policies? Then take your talents to Web3 by minting a decentralized social profile with Lens Protocol. 

Your Web3 Garden: What Is Lens Protocol?
Darry Port

Published Jun 21, 2022Updated Jun 21, 2022

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Past Year

It’s 2017 and fidget spinners are all the rage. So here you are, running Facebook ads to get those useless thingamajigs in front of millions of eyeballs. 

At first, the Facebook black box made you feel like you were just throwing money into a trashcan bonfire and praying for sales. But after staying the course, the algorithm gods decided to bless you with double-digit returns on ad spend. Ka-ching.

Lens Protocol is a decentralized social graph that developers can leverage to build social dApps, and creators can use it to take ownership of their content and audience.

That is, until Facebook’s AI went rogue and shut down your ad account with zero rhyme, reason or warning. Ooph. Any luck appealing or even getting a human rep on the phone? Nope, you’re just stuck in limbo with thousands of dollars in dead stock trying not to freak the F*** out.

Unfortunately, having your account banned or censored is pretty common among Web2 entrepreneurs and creators. Web3’s vision is to do away with centralized platforms and give users full control over their livelihood. And Lens Protocol represents a giant leap forward in decentralized social media. 

What say you and me get down to the root of what makes Lens Protocol so special?

What Is Lens Protocol?

Lens Protocol is a decentralized social graph that developers can leverage to build social dApps, and creators can use it to take ownership of their content and audience. What’s better is that Lens Protocol is brought to you by the same team behind the most valuable DeFi lending protocol in the world: Aave ($AAVE)

In January 2022, the Lens Protocol team published an open letter espousing the need for Web3-native social media. And in a matter of months, tens of thousands of people signed the letter in support—including big names like 3LAU, co-founder of the music NFT marketplace Royal.

So, what’s the big deal with decentralized social media anyway?

Well, the Web2 social media landscape is currently controlled by a few monoliths like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and TikTok. And while they get props for building engaging (*cough* addictive) and easy-to-use products, their centralized models come at a cost.

These companies censor and ban accounts willy-nilly and hold your data hostage so you can never leave them willingly. For online creators, this means your ability to put food on the table is at the mercy of a faceless corporation. Gulp. 

With Lens’ decentralized social graph, users can port their content and audience to any application built with the protocol. A positive side effect of this is that Lens-powered dApps are incentivized to design the best experiences to retain users since they can’t just lock them in and bombard them with ads.

Planting seeds: How Lens Protocol works

Lens Protocol is built on the Ethereum ($ETH) scaling solution Polygon ($MATIC), both for its low costs and low carbon footprint. The protocol was also designed in a modular fashion, allowing new features to be added in the future without disrupting existing user data. 

Additionally, Lens Protocol supports many of the social media features you’ve grown accustomed to, like commenting and resharing — with a non-fungible twist.

Profile NFTs

Every social profile on Lens Protocol is an NFT that contains all the content you create. Profiles can even be owned by multiple addresses, for instance, a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization)

post-img

Example Lens Protocol profile

Source: lensfrens.xyz

Follow NFTs

Users also generate an NFT for every profile they follow. The unique ID associated with these NFTs can in turn be used to, for instance, reward early users of a platform. 

Publications

Lens Protocol supports all media types, from text and photo to audio and video, with user posts showing up as publications. In terms of storage, Lens Protocol data can be stored on both centralized databases or decentralized solutions like IPFS (InterPlanetary File System). 

Collect & comment

Outside of being able to comment on publications, users can also curate publications in a collection. Creators, on the other hand, can directly monetize their content by charging users a small fee to collect. 

Mirror 

Finally, Mirrors are the Web3 equivalent of reposting content. This simple feature can also be an affiliate money maker, where you earn a cut from anyone who collects the original content through your share.

post-img

Key features of Lens Protocol

Source: lens.xyz

The team behind Lens Protocol didn’t skimp on security either, with their code being audited by leading blockchain security company PeckShield. Not to mention they’ve launched a bug bounty program that will pay developers up to $250,000 for identifying critical bugs.

Growing the garden: Apps powered by Lens Protocol

Since Lens Protocol is open source, developers have wasted no time building on top of it. Existing Lens dApps include LENSFRENS for finding other Lens profiles with similar interests and IRIS for subscribing to token-gated content.

In a similar vein to their bug bounty program, Lens Protocol is offering $250,000 in grants to developers to build on Lens. As we speak, Lens devs from all around the world are working on new features and tools like:

  • Social based verification
  • Fair launch drop mechanics
  • DAO profiles
  • Decentralized social analytics platforms
  • Content moderation tools

Snakes in the grass: Lens Protocol’s challenges

The ultimate goal of Lens Protocol is to create an ecosystem of independent social media platforms built on top of its decentralized social graph. But the Lens team has had to make some trade-offs to get there. 

As of today, Lens Protocol is permissioned because only the original signers of the open letter can create a Lens profile. Sucks, right? But Lens Protocol founder Stani Kulechov has reassured everyone that more users will be given access in the near future.

Lens Protocol is also currently being overseen by a multisigature (multisig) wallet, which is basically a semi-centralized committee, though the intention is to transform Lens into a DAO later on. The protocol also stresses that this multisig does not have the ability to move or delete user funds and follower NFTs. 

The final challenge worth mentioning is that Lens Protocol isn’t the first mover in the decentralized social media space—though no protocol has quite cracked it yet. 

One of the earliest attempts, Steemit ($STEEM), was a top 10 crypto project back in 2016. But as of June 2022, the project slid all the way down to #275 on Coinmarketcap.

Present-day, we’ve got decentralized social media protocols like DeSo ($DESO), Minds ($MINDS), and Twitter’s soon-to-be-released Blue Sky project. DeSo, in particular, is a layer 1 blockchain that also enables developers to build social media platforms. One of DeSo’s most successful projects is BitClout, a social media platform where you can buy “creator coins” tied to influencers like Mr.Beast and Kim Kardashian. 

To add to further tension between Lens Protocol and DeSo, both project founders have thrown shade at each other in interviews. DeSo founder Dylan Lee doesn’t think that Lens Protocol can scale on a general-purpose blockchain like Polygon due to gas fees. But Lens Protocol’s Stani Kulechov refuted this, and in turn labeled DeSo as a platform for speculation. 

Who’s to say which platform will end up winning the decentralized social media race? But my money is on Lens, despite the fact that they don’t even have a token.

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