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Former Reddit Cryptocurrency Engineer Explains How His Decentralized, Bitcoin-Powered Social Media Platform Will Work

Op-ed - Former Reddit Cryptocurrency Engineer Explains How His Decentralized

The idea of a social media platform with Bitcoin-powered financial incentives has become rather popular ever since former Reddit Cryptocurrency Engineer Ryan X. Charleswrote about how Bitcoin could be used to solve some of Reddit’s core issues earlier this year.

Although many believed that this new social media application would be nothing more than a copy of Reddit with a few Bitcoin-centric features added to it, Charles recently told an audience at an SF Bitcoin Meetup that the final product could look quite different from the “Frontpage of the Internet.” Instead of an alternative to Reddit, it appears that Charles’s creation, Datt, will be a completely new kind of experience.

Bitcoin Attached to Upvotes

During his recent presentation, Charles displayed a few mockups of what Datt could look like when it’s ready for some sort of public release. The examples shown in his presentation slides looked quite similar to Reddit, but Charles noted that the functionality associated with upvoting and downvoting worked a bit differently:

This is an example of the front page. It looks similar to Reddit -- you see links, you see images -- with one difference being those little dots you can see on the left. When you press that dot, when you highlight the dot, that’s the same thing as like upvoting on Reddit, but you’re actually paying the person bitcoin. So, you’re giving them a little bitcoin tip. You can think of it -- it’s sort of if ChangeTip were integrated to a website or if Zapchain looked like Reddit, it would look like this.

Features, Storage, and Onename Integration

Of course, Datt is not just about cloning Reddit and attaching bitcoin to upvotes. There will be other features added to the system, which could make the platform a bit more dynamic. For example, Charles noted that there could be some features that are similar to what is found on Twitter:

There will probably be following, like Twitter, so it won’t be exactly the same as Reddit.

Charles also wanted to make the point that a user does not need to have any bitcoin to use Datt:

You do not need to have bitcoin to do anything. That’s another question -- people ask about this a lot . . . You don’t have to have bitcoin to view content or to post content. It’s sort of a feature, but you don’t have to have it.

With this being an open-source project with the promise of decentralization, it makes sense that user data and content will not be stored on a centralized server owned by Datt. Charles noted that IPFS or another P2P protocol where each user is able to store data related to the subreddits (or whatever Datt communities are called) they’re interested in could be used for storing content, while Onename will likely be used to solve the identity problem.

How Will Datt Be Monetized?

In addition to explaining how Datt will work as an application, Charles also spent some time discussing how a profitable business could be built around the platform. He sees monetization as a non-issue, and he thinks taking a cut of each transaction made on Datt could be a business model that works over the short term:

To me, this is a non-issue. I think it’s very obvious -- we will just take a portion of payments. Almost no one is going to modify the client to take out that portion. It’s technically optional, but we’ll just take a cut of the payments. I think that will work; we’ll see.

Charles pointed to OB1 (the company behind OpenBazaar) as an example of an alternative business plan, but it’s clear that he will try monetize the protocol first:

There are other ways we could earn money. We could provide services [like what OB1 plans to do. OB1] is going to do more like creating other products and services, not so much monetizing the protocol. I’m trying to monetize the protocol. When people make payments on this thing, a cut goes to the company by default. At least, that’s the plan.

It’s still somewhat difficult to imagine what Datt will look like when it’s released to the public early next year, and an early prototype release in November could help Charles and the rest of the development team figure out which direction to move in next. Anyone interested in getting involved with the development process can visit the Datt GitHub page.