In decentralized social networks, communities can set their own moderation policies, but what tools are available for enforcement? There is no central authority to make network-wide moderation decisions. Instead, content is filtered through an interplay of interfaces, algorithms, social consensus, and protocol constraints. This post looks at technical approaches to decentralized moderation, and points out areas that could use more experimentation and research.

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Every social network needs ways to filter out spam and unwanted content

Email is one of the oldest and most successful decentralized protocols to learn from. Nearly 85% of email sent is spam, but the ecosystem has evolved to hide most of this from users. Among newer decentralized social…


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Illustration: Oscar Bolton Green

Read Like a Boss

An early developer of the cryptocurrency Zcash on how Steven Levy’s ‘Crypto’ inspired her interest in privacy

This is part of the Marker series “Read Like a Boss,” where founders, CEOs, and leaders in business reflect on books that revolutionized their thinking, framed their career, or aided them in a crucial business decision.

Crypto starts with the story of how Whit Diffie invented public-key cryptography. He became fixated on cryptography as a means to preserve privacy in the digital age. Diffie worked for years as a solo researcher, driving back and forth across the country, finding people who could help him understand the hidden science of cryptography. His goal was to come up with a way to…


Using blockchains for monetization and data storage

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Generic blockchain image

My previous post on decentralized social networks analyzed the differences between federated and p2p social networks. This post will provide a survey of social applications that have incorporated a blockchain into their design. Social applications that use a blockchain are decentralized to varying degrees. Some use a blockchain for data storage, some for monetization, and some for both data storage and monetization. I won’t try to list all the projects that exist, but will dive into the different design choices of a few relatively successful or unusual approaches.

Most blockchains behave like expensive, slow databases that sacrifice efficiency for immutability…


Comparing federated and peer-to-peer protocols

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Or, centralized, federated, and peer-to-peer

Efforts to decentralize social networks hope to structurally change the balance of power in favor of users by giving them the ability to change services easily and control their identity and data. Calling a network “decentralized” only defines it by what it is not — it is not dependent on a single set of servers run by one company. What it actually is can look like many different things. Federated and peer-to-peer (p2p) protocols are different approaches to designing networks that structurally empower users.

Traditional social applications like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram operate on a client-server model. As the user…


Distributed file systems

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IPFS and Dat protocol stickers

A core component of decentralizing the web is how you store and share data. IPFS and Dat are distributed file systems that can provide data storage for the decentralized web. They can be thought of as essentially next-generation versions of bittorrent. This post will compare the high level and technical details.

To skip straight to the technical details, click here.

High Level

The vision for IPFS is to upgrade the internet by changing how data is addressed. It aspires to be infrastructure for the distributed web, and to help ensure the permanence of data, since data in IPFS persists as long as…


“I have participated and contributed to events that have significantly reduced the power of middle management and which have placed powerful information tools into the hands of unlikely people.” — Lee Felsenstein

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Old timer’s story circle at the Decentralized Web Camp, 2019

On the last night of the Decentralized Web Camp, I was hanging around outside after dinner when an older white-haired man walked past, shouting “Old timer’s circle starting soon! Everyone who’s been doing stuff with computers 30 years or more.” I stopped him and asked if young people were welcome to come listen. “Of course, there’s no point if it’s just us talking to ourselves.”

So we gathered…

Jay Graber

Developer, writer. Decentralization, social networks, privacy, crypto.

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