Powping – a new star in social media?
Last week _unwriter, the famous developer of tools like bitsocket & bitbus, released a new tool named Powping. Surprise, surprise: it’s not a new developer tool, but a social media platform. So here at MetanetWeekly our Tech Editors immediately tried it out: logged in via Moneybutton, put a name and description to our profile, and then started to follow known Bitcoiners …. wait, what? Why the frack do we have to do this all over again? We have our list of people who we follow on Twetch, which is almost identical to the list of people we follow on Twitter, and now we do it all over again? Wasn’t that what Bitcoin was going to solve? “Own your data” etc?
Anyhow, we swiped the Moneybutton until exhaustion, as is our duty, and checked it out.
Powping is a platform with all the features common to all social media: post, comment, follow someone, get followed, timeline, etc. Nothing new in that regard. The differentiation: you cannot “like” a post, but rather express your appreciation by tipping the author of the post with an amount of your choice in BSV.
The feature that separates Powping from Twetch (being the dominant social media app on Bitcoin) is that the posts are a) not stored on Bitcoin and b) free! Yes, you read that right: posting on Powping doesn’t cost the user a single micro-dime! That’s great, isn’t it?
But wouldn’t that invite all the sockpuppets and oddballs of this world to flood Powping with their dribble? Maybe not, because each users actions are signed with their paymail ID (via Moneybutton), and stored as Bitcoin transactions on Powpings servers.
But there is more: If a user sends some Satoshis as a tip to another user, a reference to the interaction is stored onchain, on Bitcoin:
This allows to prove that the interaction happened, immutably stored forever. Powping’s contention is that these two mechanisms will prevent Powping into turning into a Twitter- or Reddit-like cesspool.
An interesting concept with pros and cons, and at the very least a worthwhile experiment:
The good, …
Powpings strong point is to onboard new users to Bitcoin: They only have to create a Moneybutton account, and can start posting immediately. If the new users posts are deemed interesting, he may get tips, and a new Bitcoiner is born.
Powping itself is well designed, the interface is easy on the eye, well structured, and fast. It is self explanatory, further improving the onboarding experience. New users will feel “at home” immediately.
Powping allows long posts, compared to Twetch, where posts are restricted in length. This already lead to a few interesting conversations happening. As _unwriter states in the about-section of Powping:
“… Most of the value creation and exchange will take place in the comments section.”- _unwriter
That plan seems to work.
…, the bad, …
On the other hand, Powping has inherited the free rider problem of legacy social media: Sign-ups are free, so some users started name squatting immediately. This became public quickly when a Twitter user named “Satoshi’s Evil Twin” was called out by Calvin Ayre to have squatted his name:
Drama ensued: other users chimed in to enable the sale of the powping username to Calvin Ayre, and even legal action was threatened. In the end the affair was settled privately. Overall not the smartest move of “Satosh’s Evil Twin”:
This specific problem points to a larger issue: Why not import or use e.g. Twetch’s accounts and social graph (who follows who) and spare the users the hassle of creating a new account? This would have shown to the world the power of Bitcoin as a platform: Applications that provide an interface to common data, all stored on Bitcoin. A missed opportunity!
A glimpse of how different services on Bitcoin can interact was shown when Powping enabled private messaging via baemail. Great idea, more of that please!
… and the ugly:
The idea to make every interaction free and use micropayments only for tipping is odd, to say the least. Using micropayments to pay for services is a way to enable startups to generate revenue from day 1 of operation, and a big part of Bitcoins appeal. Why not use micropayments to fund Powping? Is this supposed to be a real business or is it just a proof-of-concept, to be abandoned whenever Planaria (_unwriters company) ecides so? Or is it just a way to test Planarias underlying toolsuite? Users who invest time and effort into Powping certainly run a risk.
At scale, with millions of users, there will be significant cost for Planaria (_unwriters company) to run Powping. If Powping is supposed to be a business, what is the business model? Today Powping stores all of the content on its own servers, for free. The Facebooks and Twitters of this world also collect their users data, and it’s becoming more and more evident that this model is broken. Bitcoin provides better ways to do it.
Which leads to yet another question: For now Planaria builds tools for developers, and has deservedly received high praise for them. With Powping Planaria ventures into the consumer market, a very different segment. Lack of focus is an ill that befalls many companies. So what’s it going to be, Planaria, sell shovels or dig yourself?
But it gets worse: in the “about” section of Powping you find the following gem:
So short term profit is somehow something bad and is “extracted” from people? Maybe _unwriter should watch some of Daniel Krawisz’s videos on profit seeking in bitcoin and how everybody in the bitcoin economy is better off while doing so. Providing a service and making a profit is a good thing. Profit is a good measure how valuable the service is to the customers. Profit is not “extracted” if the exchange is voluntary.
Twetch user “Memegod” expressed it this way:
In Bitcoin we are in a phase where different actors explore what can be done, what works and what doesn’t. This is essential to the progress of Bitcoin. We see Powping as part of this process and it will provide insight on how to design applications that fit consumer needs.
In contrast it is unclear how Planaria wants to make money, which in turn raises the question of the sustainability of Powping. In comparison Twetch’s business model is clear cut and better aligned with Bitcoin.
There is a lot to like about Powping: it’s great for user adoption. The idea of storing everything off-chain but nonetheless being able to make users accountable is intriguing. The long post format allows for more profound interactions and discussions.
The MetanetWeeklys Tech Editors applaud the initiative and will observe the experiment with curiosity!