Bitcoin will soon have built-in features to make it easier to trust other users. Entrepreneur and developer Ryan X. Charles has revealed a set of protocols known as the “Social Bitcoin Web” (SBW) that links existing online presences to Bitcoin-spending addresses via Paymail.
Charles described it as an “economics-first model” and “a true market of information.” It starts with a central hub for your identity, a personal web page that you control yourself (there was a time before the advent of social media when these were more common). This page can contain links to other personal pages on social media accounts, and the SBW protocols connects them in the background.
He said Social Bitcoin Web features are “private by default, of course.” Creating a network of identities would fix “the subversive misallocation of attention caused by the overreliance on ad-funded media (social and traditional).”
Just like the old days of the web, your personal website acts as the main landing point for your online identity. Charles advised people to obtain a personal domain name with a top-level domain (TLD) corresponding to the country they live in.
The next step is to get a hosting account to associate with that domain name and publish a website there. For someone who’s never done this before (and even people who haven’t done it for a long time) there’s a bit of a learning curve to this. Luckily, most domain registrars have made the hosting process somewhat easier. For the page itself, there are beginners’ tutorials for those who understand coding a little, and pre-made templates available elsewhere on the web.
“Take pride in your personal web page. This is your new profile (not your Instagram),” Charles added.
The hope is that BSV blockchain-based social networks (like Twetch, Relica and Streamanity) gradually replace corporate behemoths like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The BSV model uses microtransactions to fund service functions and payouts to users, and on-chain data—as opposed to advertising, sale of personal data, and content owned by the provider. Charles said existing networks “will be able to follow along and pivot their business models over time,” but that BSV companies would have a head start and be able to out-compete them simply by having a better understanding of the blockchain based model.
Linking identity to Bitcoin transactions
Not everyone wants every transaction they make to publicly identify them, though, and over the course of Bitcoin/blockchain history there’s been more of a trend towards greater obfuscation of identities.
That creates its own set of problems, however, as there are many situations where you’d prefer your identity to be known—at least, to the person you’re doing business with. As Dr. Craig S. Wright has pointed out on several occasions, a society where everyone wears a mask cannot function.
Even cryptography and privacy advocates from the past understood this issue, holding “key exchange parties” and creating the Web of Trust so individuals could connect online identities to ones they trusted in real life.
Bitcoin itself has never been anonymous and has never promised full anonymity. It instead focuses on privacy, where obvious personally-identifying details are kept out of public transaction details but a transactor could still be revealed after a degree of investigation.
An early trend in Bitcoin was “vanity addresses” whereby someone could create a Bitcoin public key that contained easily identifiable information, like their name or business name. The popularity of vanity addresses waned over time due to the security and privacy issues associated with using the same Bitcoin address over and over.
SBW would still allow a person to use multiple identities, or choose which online presences they wish to link to their Paymail and Bitcoin transactions (and those they don’t). It’s also entirely possible to have multiple Paymail addresses, or BSV addresses that aren’t associated with a Paymail address at all.
In the end, it’s about people maintaining control of their own identities and data. Too much trust has been lost to large providers who sell personal data or misuse it for profiling, or simply delete content from their services if the user falls foul of their “community standards.” Bitcoin doesn’t solve all these issues completely, but it enables better services that better serve their users’ needs and creates new economic opportunities.
New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.