Blockchain in Social Media: Understanding SteemItIn an age where social networking has become an integral part of our daily lifestyles – whether one likes it or not – the consumption and distribution of content have been completely revolutionized. Value on current social media platforms is generated by those who create content that appeals to others, as well as by those who curate and distribute that content further ahead. Despite this, most platforms do not focus on incentivizing content creation and curation for their users. With the challenge of monetization, their attention has shifted towards ethically-challenging tools of advertising, with superfluous regard towards consumers and their privacy. On a free social media network, customer data ends up acting as a form of currency, with complete access to the platform getting exchanged for valuable insights into consumer behavior and preferences, that is further passed along to advertisers. Effectively, the value added by the platform’s patrons is disregarded, with their privacy compromised.This is where blockchain technology comes in. The past few years have seen the volatile rise of Bitcoin, the beloved first child of cryptocurrency. However, its underlying blockchain technology is what holds significant promise in disrupting the social media industry. But First, What is Blockchain? Imagine a train that carries passengers in four coaches. There are multiple ticket collectors, and each takes his turn to verify the presence of each passenger. When a new set of passengers comes aboard, a fifth coach is added to the train, and each ticket collector starts verification from the first coach all over again. This process is repeated with every new passenger and coach.Blockchain replicates this technologically, with coaches acting as blocks of information, and the blockchain being the train. A distributed database or ledger, blockchain technology creates new ‘blocks’ for information that is being stored or processed. For a new block of information to be saved, it must be approved by the entire chain, meaning that the chain is entirely decentralized and therefore secure and transparent.The Role of SteemItOne of the key players in this intersection of social media and technology is SteemIt – an ‘incentivized, blockchain based, public content platform.’ It allows content creators to monetize their existing works by compensating them – anyone can earn rewards by either creating quality content or curating it by sharing or upvoting. These rewards are given in the form the currency Steem (and its subsets like Steem Power), a native token akin to bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency, with an option of a pay-out in fiat currency whenever needed. The more engaged a user is towards contributing high-quality content, the higher their reward and consequent ‘authority’ on the platform is, and the more exposure their content gets. Steem’s currency ensures that quality does not get compromised by humans or bots gaming the system. For example, if a post does well, you earn more Steem Power than if a post doesn’t do well, thus incentivizing you to only vote for content that you believe is high quality. This system builds a steady, sustainable cycle that incentivizes participation and remits value back to the platform’s community. Additionally, the content creator’s dependency on the platform – now just an intermediary – is decreased tremendously, as the content is transferred to a public blockchain. Another vital issue tackled simultaneously is customer privacy. Steem’s own cryptocurrency powers the platform, mitigating dependency on advertiser funding. It automatically ensures that consumer data can no longer be shared or compromised in exchange for ad sales. The decentralized nature of the blockchain also allows for privacy and security through a distributed consensus mechanism. The result is significant – creators and curators get paid for making and sharing social content, rather than the platform leveraging their content for profit. ConclusionBlockchain continues to remain one of the most widely discussed technologies at present. With the adaptation of this technology to social media, a new relationship between creators, curators and online platforms emerges, one based on participation and fair incentives. A rewards-based system automatically ensures a highly engaged audience, and it will be interesting to see if and how current social media platforms address this need in the context of blockchain, thereby bringing about efficiency, privacy, and gains to all parties alike.