Can Farcaster Make Crypto Social Happen?
Dear Bankless Nation,
Last week, crypto social took a big step forward as the Farcaster protocol went permissionless. Twitter/X is still a massive hub for the crypto community, but what will it take for crypto to buy the web3 vision it is selling?
Today, we take a deeper look at Farcaster and its prospects.
- Bankless team
In an otherwise down year for crypto, the ecosystem’s crypto social plays have seemed to be making some forward progress in 2023.
By “crypto social,” I mean the web3 apps centered around social connections. For example, friend.tech burst onto the scene recently with its crypto-native version of super chats, i.e., buy the keys of your favorite people to get hotlines to their DMs.
I’ve enjoyed this use case a lot, and I applaud friend.tech’s popularization of the PWA mobile stack, but the catch here is not everyone has enough ETH to shell over for their favorite people.
I think that the vision for Lens V2, which will boast profiles as wallets via ERC-6551 and the whole gamut of web3 activities thanks to Open Actions, is brilliant. The catch here is Lens V2 hasn’t launched yet, and there’s still a waitlist in place for V1 for now.
The other big crypto social project making waves lately is Farcaster.
It’s in the news now because its permissionless sign-ups just went live. Account creation is managed on the Optimism L2, so it’s very affordable to sign up. And like Lens, Farcaster is a protocol for supporting decentralized apps, so you have a range of different ways you can play with Farcaster.
Of course, this decentralized approach to portability is the keystone of Farcaster’s design, as it enforces user control over data (a foil to web2 platform data silos) and fosters permissionless app development (a foil to centralized “walled garden” app stores).
Yet what does this decentralized design look like in practice?
Speaking from personal experience, years ago, I was banned from my favorite Ethereum-centric subreddit for sharing one of my write-ups, which moderators there must have seen as spammy. But the ban turned me off from Reddit, and I haven’t been back since. I had a lot of activity racked up on that original account, and it’d be nice to port that data over to a different social media platform so I can keep building upon it, but I can’t since it’s siloed to Reddit.
In contrast, Farcaster is an open protocol upon which many different crypto social apps can be built. One such app is flink.fyi, a Reddit-like web-only client for Farcaster. It’s dominating sign-ups at the time of writing, likely thanks to its familiar UI and its affordable ~$7 yearly fee.
The thing is, let’s say I grow tired of Flink’s UI, or its development stagnates over time, or what have you. Then, I could just move over to a different Farcaster app, e.g., the popular Twitter-like Warpcast, and still enjoy building on the same continued social graph.
That sort of portability is incredibly compelling to me as a user, as I don’t want my social graph to be trapped on a single platform or hostage to the whims of a single person like Elon Musk on X.
With Farcaster, you can opt in and opt out of apps as you please, all while maintaining your underlying social data intact onchain – a utility I don’t take for granted after watching the Twitter takeover debacle. Sure, Musk can commandeer X accounts any time he wants, but he can't pry my ENS name as plugged into the Farcaster ecosystem! That is the power and promise of crypto social, radical user empowerment.
As a web3 system, Farcaster can also be a springboard for user adventure in crypto. For example, consider how Warpcast has a dedicated Nouns channel or how it surfaces NFT mints in a way that traditional social media platforms have shown no stomach for to date.
So whether I zoom in or zoom out, yes, I do think something like Farcaster can be a big catalyst for the crypto social scene going forward. It supports the unique experiences and data ownership that crypto-natives long for while also being wide open enough to support the creation of apps that can appeal to even wider audiences beyond just crypto adventurers. Bullish.
If you’re keen to take the leap, now you can! Sign up for your app of choice, like Warpcast or Flink, at farcaster.xyz/apps. Just remember, sign-ups are managed on Optimism, so you’ll need a little bit of ETH on that L2 to complete the necessary account creation transaction.