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Arweave acquires crypto social media app Odysee: ‘We haven’t won until it replaces Twitter’

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Forward Research has acquired crypto-based YouTube competitor Odysee, a move expected to bring its seven million users to Arweave and breathe new life into the controversial effort to create a social media platform beyond the reach of government censors — and content moderators.

“We stepped in to save it from going offline,” Sam Williams, the founder of the Arweave blockchain and CEO at Forward Research, a venture firm supporting Arweave, told DL News.

When US regulators forced the closure of LBRY, they almost killed Odysee in the process.

“This has been a very long-term project for us,” Williams said. “It would have been a terrible end just to disappear from the internet like that.”

Williams declined to detail the terms of the acquisition.

Odysee is far larger than other crypto alternatives to social media giants like Farcaster and Bluesky.

“The goal is to topple the monopolies that currently exist in social media. We haven’t won until it replaces Twitter.”

Sam Williams, founder of Arweave and CEO at Forward Research

“They actually have a user base that doesn’t really care about crypto. They came to Odysee because they wanted something that maintained their rights, guaranteed their right to speech and to discuss with one another,” Williams said.

Arweave is one of several blockchains focused on data storage. While Ethereum can store the metadata or links to large files, such as videos, Arweave can host such data entirely onchain.

Welcome to the ‘permaweb’

Williams calls the Arweave ecosystem the “permaweb,” due to its ability to permanently store any content uploaded by its users.

That made Odysee a natural fit for Arweave, he said.

“This is one of the things that really caught our eye about it,” he said. “This is a system that is imbued with crypto values, if you will, and has attracted a mainstream audience. And now the job is just to grow that.”

Odysee has attracted scrutiny for its lax content moderation policy. However, crypto users and free-speech proponents see it as a solution to the growing power that major corporations have over online speech.

“Every time you attempt to speak at distance in the world, you have to use some company service,” Williams said, “unless you use something like Arweave.”

Williams likened Arweave to a content “data lake” that is “shared across every single application.”

TikTok had to slowly build its user base — a long and expensive process for an upstart taking on billion-dollar incumbents. A developer on Arweave could create an interface that would draw from the same pool of content as other Arweave-based social media applications and differentiate itself by choosing what to surface.

Last year, the blockchain introduced its “Universal Data License,” allowing users to set the terms of use for any content they upload.

Williams hopes this opportunity to better monetise content will draw creators and, in turn, users.

“The goal is to topple the monopolies that currently exist in social media. We haven’t won until it replaces Twitter.”

Aleks Gilbert is a DeFi Correspondent at DL News. Got a tip? Email him at aleks@dlnews.com.

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