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Comprehensive Interpretation Of The Censorship Resistance Of Decentralized Social Protocols

1y ago




Comprehensive Interpretation Of The Censorship Resistance Of Decentralized Social Protocols

Key Points:

  • Decentralized social protocols are expected to play an important role in the future of social media, providing censorship resistance and greater security.
  • Nostr, Farcaster, and Subsocial are projects focused on developing decentralized social.
  • Decentralized social protocols also present some challenges, such as scalability, user experience, privacy protection, and others.
Content censorship, lack of user ownership, and exclusivity on Web2 social platforms have been much debated. Decentralized social protocols are an exploration of this aspect in the Web3 field.
Decentralized Social Protocols is a protocol that allows developers to freely build social platforms and services. It has higher censorship resistance and privacy, provides an infrastructure that allows developers to build highly free social projects quickly, and has stronger data security and reliability. Therefore, decentralized social protocols are expected to play an important role in the future of social media.
This article will conduct an in-depth study of three typical products of the current decentralized social protocol track (DeSoc track for short): Nostr, Farcaster, and Subsocial focusing on their core architecture and ecological prospects.
Comprehensive Interpretation Of The Censorship Resistance Of Decentralized Social Protocols


First of all, the core feature of a decentralized social protocol is a decentralized protocol, so it must follow the value of decentralization; that is, it does not require any central agency or controller to maintain the normal operation of the protocol.

Secondly, the architecture of the decentralized social protocol is built by decentralized technology, so it has more reliable data processing capabilities and higher security.

Finally, the value of a decentralized social protocol must have a higher degree of freedom than traditional social media because it has higher data security and anti-censorship, as well as stronger privacy protection functions.

From the perspective of decentralization, there is still no so-called Web3 social protocol that can enter the mainstream field of vision. The fundamental reason is that the values ​​of the current mainstream Web2 social products have been finalized. They have comfortable review boundaries and regulatory-compliant review channels. If you care about anti-censorship, you should pay attention to and use decentralized social products.

The user experience of social products that sacrifices the attributes of decentralization may be more acceptable to regulators, but it goes against the long-term trend of resistance to censorship. Web2 social products are often like public squares, and decentralized social networks are more like sewers.

The advantage of the sewer model is that the influence of the network will be focused but will not cause a monopoly, and the relationship between nodes (users) is difficult to alienate. Regarding the sewer theory, we have discussed the importance of privacy in detail in the article “Rethinking the Investment Logic of Public Chains with the Open Sewer Model.” Similarly, privacy should become the core value of all decentralized social products.

Technology Architecture

Nostr: A censorship-resistant protocol based on “public/private keys”

Nostr offers several effective ways to defend against web censorship. First, it identifies users based on their signatures. Therefore, as long as you have the private key, your number will not be deleted.

Secondly, one of the relays can be migrated to another relay, and this operation is also quite convenient. The operators of each relayer can create their own rules for censoring specific types of content.

In addition, even if all repeaters block users, they can build their own servers and inform others about them to regain the opportunity to speak.

Comprehensive Interpretation Of The Censorship Resistance Of Decentralized Social Protocols

The significance of Nostr is to create a general scheme for concise user messaging but, at the same time, guarantee message integrity. In addition, the protocol provides support for relay servers in the backend infrastructure, which can enable users to self-run personal relay servers while allowing seamless interaction with each other.

Even if users are banned from using a relay server, there will be no large-scale network chaos. And when the user leaves the previous server, they don’t lose their digital identity or followers because they still maintain control of the private key, which can be authenticated elsewhere.

Within the framework of the above mechanism, users will not have the problem of being banned or disappearing. At the same time, under the existing protocol architecture, each user can publish updated content to any number of repeaters, thus ensuring the anti-censorship of the content. In addition, the fee negotiation mechanism between Nostr repeaters can also support users to publish content on designated repeaters by paying fees.

Farcaster: a decentralized protocol that combines “on-chain + off-chain”

Farcaster provides secure private communication technology focused on creating a safe and private environment for users to communicate with each other. Farcaster allows users to send text, voice, video, and audio messages securely and privately.

Farcaster is built through a hybrid architecture, a combination of “on-chain + off-chain” to realize the decentralized protocol. Identity information for the protocol is stored on Ethereum and managed using the security mechanisms, composability, and consistency provided by Ethereum.

The Farcaster protocol consists of two key components: an on-chain registry that allows users to claim unique usernames and an off-chain host for them to store social data. At the same time, the registry also stores the user’s web host URL (Web address). To read a user’s message, one needs to first ask the registry for its host URL and then ask the host for its message. User identities are stored in Ethereum smart contracts for security, composability, and consistency.

The other part is the user-controlled servers, the so-called Farcaster Hubs. User data is stored off-chain after being cryptographically signed by identity, as settlement is costly and slow on most L1 and L2 networks.

The architecture specifies who can create or access content and can also allow the support of other on-chain identities (such as ENS) so that users can seamlessly bring their Web3 identity and reputation into the Farcaster ecosystem and in a user-controlled manner Its existing identities are imported into the project.

Comprehensive Interpretation Of The Censorship Resistance Of Decentralized Social Protocols
Source: github.farcasterxyz

Subsocial: An open platform built on Polkadot and IPFS technology stack

Subsocial is an open platform built on the Polkadot and IPFS technology stack, allowing anyone to launch their own decentralized censorship-resistant social network and marketplace. Users own their own content and social graph.

Subsocial itself is not a social application but a platform with multiple functional modules required by social application products. Anyone can use Subsocial to build their own social applications, such as decentralized versions of Medium, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, etc.

Comprehensive Interpretation Of The Censorship Resistance Of Decentralized Social Protocols

The Subsocial protocol is essentially a set of Substrate modules and website front-ends that users can use to create their own decentralized anti-censorship social network, or community, called Space. Subsocial delegates content moderation to each community.

However, opposing content censorship does not mean abandoning censorship altogether. Subsocial does not conduct the content review and blocking at its chain level, but each community can set its own content review rules and review content according to its own needs. The community can vote for moderators to remove content involving scams and harmful information and even collectively decide how to block content the community doesn’t like.

Censorship, Censorship Resistance and Incentives

Users’ desire for new social experiences has inspired the explosion of decentralized social protocols, and the emergence of new censorship paradigms often accompanies new social experiences. With Nostr’s launch of Damus sparking debate, the censorship-resistant narrative of decentralized protocols has reignited the debate. First of all, we believe that decentralized social networking is not only a technical category but also a social issue.

From “Square Social” to “Channel Social”

In the traditional concept, many people regard social networks as public social squares. The scope of freedom of speech and the parts restricted by rules, as well as who will formulate rules and conduct censorship, often follow the logic of centralized power distribution, which can easily lead to the monopoly of authoritative discourse power. Some people also advocate the restrictive effect of traditional censorship rules on false information and fraud, but in fact, the real effect of anti-false content under the anti-censorship mechanism has never been studied.

The real beauty of decentralized social protocols is that they follow the logic of the sewer rather than the logic of the social square. In other words, the previous form of social interaction required users to “make a face-to-face meeting” to meet each other in some face-to-face form. But Web3 social interaction does not need to see each other, they are more behavior-oriented and only need to simply “broadcast” kind of token.

In other words, the social paradigm of our generation has shifted from the “square social” model to the “channel social” model. This means that the review should be a process based on openness and fairness with the characteristics of collective decision-making rather than an arbitrary process, otherwise, the “broadcasting” of the entire network will lose its meaning.

The token economic model of the blockchain provides us with a successful demonstration, which combines censorship and censorship resistance, incentives, and social activity in a sustainable mode of operation, thereby improving the social network environment.

We believe that a successful decentralized social protocol must have a robust economic incentive model to stimulate more network vitality, so the following two principles must be followed to achieve the best balance between censorship and censorship resistance.

The evolution of social networkingThe social network has changed from a “square social” model to a “channel social” model, which is a behavior-oriented social form.
Advantages of Decentralized Social ProtocolsDecentralized social protocols follow the logic of the sewer, achieving a balance between censorship and censorship resistance. They are more characterized by openness, fairness, and collective decision-making.
The Importance of Economic Incentive ModelsDecentralized social protocols must have a robust economic incentive model to stimulate more network vitality.
Two principlesDecentralized social protocols must follow a balance between censorship and censorship resistance, while enabling censorship and incentives to promote social activity.


Decentralized social protocols that are completely free from economic incentives are utopian. However, those social projects with their own token economy were almost completely wiped out. Does this mean that Social Token has nowhere to go? Voluntary social behavior. That is to say, the real decentralized social network effect is not measurable by short-term token interaction behavior but by the “voluntarism” empowerment of users through behavioral interaction through the token economy.

A token economy that follows “voluntarism” should capture more of the value of “behaviors” rather than “users.” Among them, account migration should be the most frequent social behavior, and users can transfer their accounts from one project to another without losing any data or social graph.

At the same time, decentralized social protocols require a diverse market for censorship services to ensure healthy competition. That said, interoperability will be the strongest consensus for decentralized censorship. An excellent interoperability framework that will help address consensus challenges for content review in different communities.


Decentralized social protocols follow “superhumanism”, that is, to allow users to have complete freedom of control and ownership of personal data, as well as more options for social combinations. The effectiveness of this model is mainly reflected in three aspects: governance freedom, avatar freedom and algorithm freedom, without any censorship and interference from service providers. The specific performance is the user’s “superhuman experience”.

  • Freedom to govern: First of all, users can express their thoughts, opinions, and speeches on social networks without any third-party interference or suppression. There is no unified standard for decentralized social networks, and every user is free to express their opinions, thereby improving users’ freedom of expression. The incentive model of the social protocol should fully comply with the principle of anti-censorship and obey the authority of each individual and the censorship rules customized by the individual. We believe that “meta-governance” combines the development of financial tools and community governance.
    Communities can more easily set economic terms that balance the interests of members. Using the governance function of tokens, the value and flow of all internal things can be reflected in digital assets, forming an open free market and realizing the long tail of value. Please read “Innovation in Web 3.0 Governance Mechanism from the Perspective of Governor DAO’s Decentralization” for a detailed discussion.
  • Avatar freedom: Direct-to-avatar is a business model that primarily provides avatars to users in social networks. In a broad sense, digital identity should be abstracted as a high-degree-of-freedom avatar in a social environment rather than a cold address, domain name, or ID. As with any virtual commodity trying to cross digital boundaries, the main challenge for avatars is interoperability. The standardization of cross-platform assets will improve the effectiveness of protocol incentives and improve the overall censorship resistance of the network. Therefore, protocols that support cross-chain, cross-platform, and even cross-domain interoperability deserve attention.
  • Algorithms are free: Algorithms determine what users see and who they can reach. Social protocols must include an open algorithmic model. Users are free to choose the social network algorithm without any third-party restrictions. In a decentralized social network, each user can freely choose an algorithm that suits them according to their needs and needs, thereby improving the security and flexibility of the social network.

Future space

Nostr: Excellent censorship resistance

We believe that Nostr is still the most censorship-resistant among the current decentralized social protocols. Its anti-censorship ability is reflected in the fact that the client can use multiple repeaters at the same time, and the repeaters can be constantly replaced. In theory, a user could switch repeaters over and over again and still be in control of their identity. This may be the greatest value of the decentralized social protocol layer, which is entirely based on “public key + private key” to realize the value circulation of self-sovereignty.

Compared with other social protocols, the core of Nostr, which is not based on blockchain, is minimalist and highly interoperable, which makes it possible to build applications on a large scale.

Developers can quickly reach a consensus on open standards and quickly develop iterations on client programs, thereby putting all the complexity on the client side. However, the construction of the Nostr protocol repeater network lacks an incentive layer. Although any user can build a repeater, the number of repeaters in the world is still very small, and there is a certain threshold for building. Nostr can consider the following schemes for incentivizing repeaters:

  • Based on the payment model: when using Nostr, users can pay a certain fee to the repeater to obtain the service. This guarantees the revenue of the relayer and also guarantees the security of Nostr.
  • Mortgage-based model: Users can mortgage Bitcoin to the Nostr network to obtain relayer services. Collateralized cryptocurrencies can be used to pay for relayer services while also ensuring the censorship resistance of the Nostr network.
  • Based on the mining model: the Nostr network can motivate repeaters through mining; that is, repeaters can obtain token rewards by passing information.

Farcaster: Backed by the network effect of Ethereum

Farcaster is a decentralized social protocol based on Ethereum, which uses smart contract technology on Ethereum to realize various functions of social media applications. Currently, there are more than 30 applications built on the Farcaster protocol.

Compared with traditional centralized social media platforms, Farcaster has higher anti-censorship potential because the data and functions of its social media applications are run by smart contracts and are not controlled by a single centralized entity. At the same time, due to its use of blockchain technology, the security and privacy of user data can be ensured.

However, Farcaster is currently in an early development stage and requires more development and testing to achieve its ideal censorship resistance and usability. In addition, Ethereum’s scalability issues may also have an impact on Farcaster’s development.

While Ethereum is constantly undergoing upgrades to improve its scalability, this is still a challenge that needs to be addressed. For an in-depth study of Farcaster, you can read our previous article, “Farcaster: When Will the Killer Social Networking Protocol Mature?” ” for further review. In conclusion, a decentralized social protocol built on Ethereum, such as Farcaster, has great potential, but its resistance to censorship is still lower than that of the Nostr protocol.

Subsocial: The Future of Interoperability

The author believes that decentralized social protocols such as Subsocial based on Polkadot and IPFS have high potential. Polkadot’s cross-chain capabilities and IPFS’s distributed storage technology provide high scalability and censorship resistance, which are very suitable for building decentralized social protocols.

Subsocial not only provides a platform for users to freely publish content and build communities but also uses Polkadot’s cross-chain function to achieve interoperability between different chains. This allows Subsocial to integrate with other decentralized applications through cross-chain functionality, further expanding its user base and influence.

Subsocial also adopts censorship-resistant blockchain technology, and user data and social relationships are stored on the blockchain, ensuring user data security and privacy. These features make Subsocial a very promising decentralized social protocol with great potential for development. However, it also has some limitations:

  • Technical limitations: At present, Polkadot and IPFS technologies still have a higher development threshold compared to Ethereum. For users who are not familiar with these technologies, using and building social applications on such protocols may not be a priority. However, with the improvement of Polkadot’s cross-chain function and the introduction of FVM into Filecoin, the situation will be greatly improved.
  • Security issues: In a decentralized protocol, data security issues are very important. Since Subsocial has no centralized control, it is difficult to effectively guarantee security issues, which is also a limitation that Subsocial faces.


All in all, from a censorship-resistant perspective, Nostr is the best decentralized social protocol out there. But it has yet to develop a viable business model. How to find the path of continuous hematopoiesis in the “voluntary” developer experience and the “superhumanist” end-user experience is an important proposition. At present, it seems that the Lightning Network can accelerate the introduction of more income layer experience.

In addition, Metaverse and NFT are also other directions. Farcaster based on Ethereum has natural ecological advantages, and it is easier to form a network incentive effect at the token level. But in a permissionless decentralized society, due to the introduction of token incentives, it is necessary to maintain the positive growth of token value and create more social scenarios for tokens. From this point of view, Subsocial designs are more.

So, who will be the winner? In general, these three decentralized social protocols have different technical architectures and development directions, and their advantages and disadvantages depend on application scenarios and specific needs. In the future development, they all need continuous technological innovation and optimization to meet user needs and improve their anti-censorship performance.

To sum up, an ideal decentralized social protocol should have strong anti-censorship performance, high security, strong scalability, good user experience, good ecological construction, and a fair governance mechanism. Decentralized social protocols also have some challenges, such as scale, user experience, privacy protection, and other issues, which may affect their practical application and anti-censorship performance.

In addition, the censorship resistance of decentralized social agreements also faces legal and policy challenges because, in some countries or regions, governments may take measures to restrict or block these agreements.

Future users will move closer to social products with more “superhumanism” and “voluntarism.” Projects like Nostr without a centralized governance mechanism are more liberal.

In other words, compared to innovations in performance and scalability, we are more optimistic about social projects with strong censorship resistance and high security. We do not disapprove of the Ethereum ecosystem and its outstanding governance model, but for a truly decentralized social protocol, a Bitcoin-based network or other anti-censorship privacy networks deserve more attention.

DISCLAIMER: The Information on this website is provided as general market commentary and does not constitute investment advice. We encourage you to do your own research before investing.

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