Can a Bitcoin-Powered Social Network Improve on Reddit? 

A former engineer for "the front page of the internet" says the site abandoned a plan to reward users with bitcoin last year. He wants to follow through.


The founder of the upcoming bitcoin-powered social media platform Datt has released an overview of how the site will use cryptocurrency as an incentive to post content, an idea he claims bubbled up at Reddit last year. Ryan X. Charles caused a bit of a stir when he debuted the idea of Datt, a decentralized content sharing system at late October’s San Francisco Bitcoin Meetup. Datt will have an invite-only private launch this month, with a public launch tentatively scheduled for March.

The network will be similar to Reddit in several ways — allowing users to follow each other, for instance — but the main difference is that their is money at stake. Cryptocurrency will replace upvotes.

Charles isn’t taking credit for the idea. He claims Reddit had plans to decentralize itself, stating in a July post on Medium that when he worked for the company as a cryptocurrency engineer, his job was to come up with a recipe for a similar dish for then-CEO Yishan Wong.

Charles explains the payment system he devised:

“The way a decentralized reddit works 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.”

Charles expects monetizing the network to be as easy as skimming a small amount of each transaction.

Besides potentially creating a new way for people to get paid for their content, Charles believes he can sidestep the tensions that led to fireworks last summer when Reddit fired Victoria Taylor, coordinator of the popular “Ask Me Anything” feature.

“It’s inevitable that the company and the users will come into conflict sometimes,” Charles told Wired. “But with a centralized experience, it’s extremely difficult for the users to have a say in resolving any conflicts. A decentralized approach would give more power to the users.”

The Datt build is definitely open. Anyone interested in collaborating on it can join in through a Slack link on the site’s main page.

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