Popular DeFi lending protocol Aave is going a very different route for its latest Web3 project, today announcing the public launch of Lens Protocol, a decentralized social graph that uses NFT assets to power social media platforms.
While Lens Protocol appears designed to challenge centralized social media platforms like Twitter, it takes a very different approach. Essentially, it lets users own their content by storing it as NFTs—unique blockchain-based tokens—within a crypto wallet. The protocol can be tapped by any number of apps or services, so anyone can build on it.
Lens Protocol is built on Polygon, a sidechain scaling solution for Ethereum, the leading blockchain platform for decentralized apps (dapps) and NFTs. Polygon enables faster, cheaper, and less energy-intensive transactions than Ethereum’s own mainnet, making it more viable for a social network built around a potentially large number of NFT assets.
Social media is seen as an ideal use case for blockchain technology, enabling platforms that are censorship-resistant and let users own, control, and possibly profit from their own content.
Bloom into a new era of social 🌿 Lens Protocol is ready for you to build the next gen of social media apps. The garden is open… https://t.co/bhzgxs9JFt pic.twitter.com/m2IqtIfb7P
— LensProtocol.eth 🌿 (@LensProtocol) May 18, 2022
Such platforms have yet to approach the scale of giants like Twitter and Facebook, although the Ethereum-based Minds is one notable example—it claimed to have 14 million total users as of June 2021.
Lens Protocol was first teased last June, when Aave founder and CEO Stani Kulechov tweeted, “Since [Square CEO and then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey] is going to build Aave on Bitcoin, Aave should build Twitter on Ethereum.”
It wasn’t a throwaway comment: Aave really did begin developing a decentralized social media rival, but ultimately opted to build on Polygon rather than Ethereum’s mainnet.
“We believe that content creators should own their audiences in a permissionless fashion, where anyone can build new user experiences by using the same on-chain social graph and data,” Kulechov told Decrypt at the time.
Aave first revealed the Lens Protocol branding and details in February, highlighting the ability to create one-of-a-kind NFT-based profiles, as well as to have content saved via NFTs that users hold within their own wallets. Early apps such as LensFrens and Lenster are already tapping into the Lens Protocol, but they’re not robust social media services quite yet.
Interestingly, Twitter is also looking toward a potentially decentralized future. Under Dorsey, Twitter announced the creation of Bluesky, an initiative that's attempting to build a decentralized social media protocol. Twitter is funding the project, but does not own it.
Twitter is currently in the midst of a potential acquisition by billionaire Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, whose $44 billion offer was accepted by the social media firm last month.
However, Musk may be wavering from his plan, last week tweeting that the deal is “temporarily on hold” while he investigates the proliferation of spam accounts on the platform. Members of the Bluesky project have said that the potential Musk deal won't affect their work.
Kulechov recently was temporarily banned by Twitter when he joked that he would be the platform’s interim CEO following the planned Musk acquisition. “As a user, you’re very much at the mercy of the platforms,” he told Bloomberg.