This billionaire is pouring $100M into a decentralized Facebook alternative

www.fastcompany.com
4 min read
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Frank McCourt, the real estate magnate who sold the LA Dodgers in 2012, is bankrolling a new protocol built on blockchain that may liberate our social data from Big Tech.
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The lesson from the Facebook era may be that social networking is too central to modern life to be monopolized by one very profit-driven company. Maybe social networks are something more like bridges or water supplies, something best controlled by the public.

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That's the thinking of Frank McCourt, the real estate billionaire and former L.A. Dodgers owner who has now turned his attention—and his wallet—to jumpstarting the evolution of the internet beyond the excesses and errors of Web 2.0. "If you look at the way the internet developed with Web 2.0, you've got these massive data structures that are built by all of us behind proprietary enclosures: the global search index at Google, the global product index at Amazon, the global social graph at Facebook," McCourt says, Zooming in from the back of a car cruising through the streets of New York City. "The thought is these large data structures created by the public should be owned by no one; they should be public." To get things going, McCourt proposes building a new "civic architecture" using the blockchain as its foundational technology (a "gift to humanity," he calls it). Data about social interactions—basically everything we do within digital communities—would live on the blockchain and be controlled by individuals instead of internet companies, McCourt says. Blockchain uses an immutable ledger spread across a large network of computers to track transactions, and is the foundational technology that underpins Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

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The first building block of this new architecture is something called the Decentralized Social Networking Protocol (DSNP), which developers can use to build social apps and services. Instead of creating value by hoarding personal data, social apps would compete based on the value of the service they provide users. People could allow certain apps to access their personal…
Mark Sullivan
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