Reddit rolls out blockchain-based reputation system while social media giants recycle features

Top social media giants recycle competitor’s features

The social media landscape has been chaotic over the past few years, with few effective innovations except for high profile rebranding exercises and little more than repackaged variations of the same features. Meta’s metaverse flopped. The largest social platforms seem to be competing to deploy new versions of the same features: text, image and video posts. Twitter is focusing on a subscription model and partially re-branding to “x”. In a recent x-post the new Twitter CEO said:

For years, fans and critics alike have pushed Twitter to dream bigger, to innovate faster, and to fulfill our great potential. X will do that and more. We’ve already started to see X take shape over the past 8 months through our rapid feature launches, but we’re just getting…

— Linda Yaccarino (@lindayacc) July 23, 2023

Reddit deploys blockchain-based reputation system

Future Twitter users may have x-videos, x-messaging and x-payments to look forward to.

Capitalising on Twitters declining user activity and plummeting advertising revenue, Meta launched Threads, a Twitter competitor, demonstrating that the best way to attract 100 million new app users in one week is to have an existing user base of 3 billion people inside one of the world’s largest media and advertising companies. Tiktok is still capturing the internet’s attention with 4% of global web traffic, just slightly lower than Disney+. TikTok launched their own text-based post feature this week to “empower creators” to “expand the boundaries of content creation” with text posts.

None of these ideas are new. To find innovation among the larger social media platforms we can look to Reddit’s development and rollout of blockchain-based Community Points.

Reddit is a large social media platform and link aggregator, but is small compared to the monthly active user base of networks like Facebook (2.9 billion), Youtube (2.6 billion), Tiktok (1.7 billion) but has a similar number of monthly active users to Twitter at about 450 million.

Reddit grows into web3 with blockchain-based reputation system

Reddit is expanding their Community Points system, a blockchain-based reputation score that users earn based on their contribution to specific communities.

These points are digital tokens that are awarded to users based on their participation in specific communities. To earn Community Points, users can engage in different ways, such as posting content, leaving comments, or receiving upvotes (positive feedback) from other users. The more active users are, and the more other users react positively to their posts or comments, the more points are earned.

These points can used to unlock specific digital rewards in the communities, membership features, and gain more influence in community decisions through voting power that is weighted based on a user’s Community Points. The points are not just a counter on a scoreboard though, they are also recorded on the Ethereum blockchain and can be accessed through a web3 wallet. That means the points are digital tokens that users can buy, sell and send independent of Reddit. Users can even exchange them for popular cryptocurrencies like Ether or USDC, and exchange those for cash.

The top scoring users on Reddit’s cryptocurrency subreddit last month earned over 9,000 Cryptocurrency Community Points (MOONS) each in a 28-day period (worth over €2,800; USD$3,100 on July, 26 2023).

Reddit Moons

In June 2020, Reddit’s cryptocurrency community introduced a digital token called Moons. These tokens are unique to the r/Cryptocurrency community and were created as part of Reddit’s strategy to reward content creation and encourage user engagement. Moons have developed over the past three years, transitioning from a testing phase to deploying live on the blockchain. Along the way, the community has implemented various rules to determine how users can earn Moons, with specific types of contributions being recognised and rewarded based on these additional rules.

Each month, Moons are distributed based on individual contributions made by users in r/CryptoCurrency. The more active and engaged a user is, through comments, posts, and other interactions, the more Moons they can earn. Reddit karma serves as a basis for measuring these contributions, and the algorithm for awarding Moons has been adjusted over time to encourage certain types of activity while discouraging others.

Moons are ERC-20 tokens on the Ethereum blockchain, managed by smart contracts. As blockchain tokens, Moons are independent of Reddit. Once a user earns Moons, neither Reddit nor its moderators have any control of the tokens in a user’s wallet. Users have full ownership and control over their Moons, and have complete control over sending, sharing or trading their token within the community or outside of Reddit.

After successfully testing their Community Points in the Cryptocurrency and Fortnite communities, Reddit looks to be moving toward a wider rollout of this system. Blockchain-based reputation systems have the potential to reshape the social media landscape. Using blockchain token-based reputation system, communities and users have far more control of what type of content and behaviour is rewarded, penalised or blocked within their communities.

A recent update to Reddit’s terms of service, signals a broader implementation of blockchain-based points and collectibles.

Another crucial move towards expansion is the listing of Community Points on cryptocurrency exchanges. While it was previously possible to trade these Community Points, further listings on cryptocurrency exchanges makes these points easier to exchange, providing users with a more direct path to exchange them for cash.

Interoperable reputation systems

With Community Points issued as ERC-20 blockchain tokens, they are potentially portable to other communities, other social media platforms or apps that can connect with web3 wallets. This means users could carry their reputation and earned points to different networks, making it an interoperable reputation system that extends beyond specific subreddits and even beyond Reddit itself.

Furthermore, the tradability of Community Points adds another dimension: user contributions are financially incentivised, but reputation points can be purchased. Users can now freely buy or sell their earned points, because their points are digital assets that the users own and control. However, concerns arise regarding the meritocracy of the system, as someone could potentially “buy” reputation. Nevertheless, the transparent nature of blockchain transactions allows for clear differentiation between “earned” and “purchased” points. Although the current Reddit community interface does not distinguish between earned and purchased points, it is possible for other communities or reputation systems to make that distinction.

The potential for integrating these blockchain wallets and reputation systems extends beyond Reddit. Any other social media platform can use this technology to provide users with a social score based on their earned or purchased community points. They can even create their own scoring system based on publicly available blockchain data.

While other social media platforms are busy attempting to revamp text-based posting in an effort to win over Twitter’s user base, the more interesting social media innovation to watch is Reddit’s approach to Community Points. These points represent the first significant shift in the operation of social media networks in many years, and their potential impact reaches far outside of their own platform. Unlike the walled gardens of competitors, Reddit’s Community Points have the potential to extend across the broader social media ecosystem, making them a potential game-changer in the industry.

Ian MacRae is a psychologist and author of six books about the psychology of work, personality, digital communication and technology including Dark Social: Understanding the darker side of work, personality and social media (Bloomsbury, 2021).

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