I've enjoyed posting and reading wonderful content from awesome people on Steem these last few years. While there've been issues with various features of the platform, it's been a bastion of free speech in a world considerably censored online, and bloated with groupthink propaganda Steem is a refuge from.
But the Tron takeover bodes poorly for that. What I've seen of Sun and his supporters doesn't recommend their brand of groupthink and pandering to my quest for forthright information and rational opinion. Seems quite the opposite in fact.
Worse, as a result of the weakness of our witness elections that form the basis for governance of the blockchain, I've learned that cryptic agreement between substantial stakeholders and consensus witnesses has long compromised actual decentralization, and resulted in an oligarchy that pays lip service to decentralization while directing economic benefits to itself.
This is why Sun was able to simply assume control of governance at will with his stake, why the consensus witnesses sought to head him off at the pass, and why Sun is presently staying his hand instead of deploying the full weight of his stake to keep governance of Steem his sole option. These are guys he can work with.
There's a lot of hand-wringing from our fearless leaders, but they're essentially powerless in the face of Sun's stake and how they've created the means for him to dominate governance even though he has less than half the stake of the community itself.
Let's compare stakeholders voting on witnesses. User A has 1M Steem, votes for 30 witnesses and applies 30M Steem influence on governance. 10,000 minnows with 100 Steem each also vote for 30 witnesses and collectively apply 30M Steem influence on governance.
But those 10k users don't all vote for the same 30 witnesses. Their SP is split, say amongst the top 50 witnesses. A's SP makes all 30 of their chosen witnesses the top 30 because A doesn't split their SP into 50 witnesses, but only votes 30, while the community spreads their SP over 50 witnesses, meaning even the 30 of their picks that get the most support do not get as much support from them as all of A's picks get from A. None of the community's picks get in the consensus - unless they vote with User A.
This is how it is when one user has a massive stake that can be applied to governance. It's not unfair or corrupt at all. It's coherence vs incoherence. The former applies more force than the latter.
This is the legacy of inequitable distribution, avarice, and novel mechanisms that necessarily engender incompetence, because no one knows enough about them to be an expert yet. As far as I can see, the only way this platform doesn't become the personal property of Justin Sun is if he, as did @ned for four years, just doesn't take it.
I don't think he won't, and I don't think there's anything anyone can do about it in the short term. While litigation can change everything, and there's copious evidence that Stinc made assurances to investors in Steem that the founder's stake Sun now controls would not be used for governance, contrary to Sun's use of it, it will take years, maybe more than a decade, to grind through the courts to prevent Sun's continued exercise of governance. AFAIK no one has even sought an injunction to keep him at bay, or the exchanges, yet.
That will be far too late to save Steem, it's censorship resistance, or it's community of sovereign voluntarists. Whatever Sun has in mind will be a fait accompli by then.
So, I'm not counting on being here in ten years, despite my hope to be. I am certain that folks hereabouts as disappointed as I am about how things worked out are working on the next generation of decentralized social media platforms that underwrite an economy. I am pretty confident that smart people carefully considering the problems that have weakened Steem until it could become a billionaire's personal pet have well understood most, if not all of them.
I expect the coming iteration of blockchain social media to be a much better product than a mere fork of Steem could be, since a fork would just reproduce those weaknesses, although maybe with one fewer stakeholder, and without his stake.
The weakness that took Steem out was governance, but that may not be it's worst weakness, and that weak governance has certainly been made worse by Steem's flawed economic model. In many ways the economy was highly centralized, and the GINI of Steem was worse than the most third world banana republic in existence. GINI, or the ratio of economic disparity, is a superb predictor of social unrest IRL. Better than 80% of social unrest can be explained by economic inequality as revealed by GINI on the ground. Steem isn't on the ground however, so the social unrest on Steem didn't take the form of violent gangs robbing people, but spammers and scammers hacking them. The wealthy didn't hire armed thugs to quell unrest and imprison criminals seeking upwards mobility, they flagged the plebs into penury, drove them off the platform, and forced them to pander if they wanted any rewards whales didn't keep for themselves.
Bright witnesses saw where the butter for their bread came from and didn't rock the boat, getting their share as long as they toed the company line.
The company line for witnesses meant making sure Steem remained a plutocracy, so the whales could keep the vast majority of rewards, and this is why Sun, now the biggest whale of all, so easily seized power, even over other whales who didn't want to share it.
As a result of these obvious lessons, I am sure the next generation of social media blockchains will be far less inequitable at it's instantiation. MIRA revealed that steps are being taken towards greater decentralization of nodes, and I reckon these two birds can be hit with one stone.
A platform in which each user is a node, and all the users share blockchain data via torrents, has zero hosting costs, no vulnerability to censorship via hosting services, and many other advantages over Steem, and more centralized platforms. Each node is a benefit to the network, and thus has economic value to the network, and this value can be equitably distributed to nodes, based on the value they bring to the network.
Physical expansion of the network by adding nodes/users raises the value of the network, and creates inflation, which increases the economic benefits available to users, whether via tokens or some other mechanism to convey beneficial interest, such as shares, or a good, like bandwidth. There are myriad ways to deliver such beneficial interest, and tokens are only one of them, adding potential flexibility to the economy of the platform.
As the software allows, each user can be a witness, or they can assign that undertaking.
Additional layers of value can be created, such as the various dapps, content, and services that have arisen on Steem. One interesting feature of such a distributed network effected by it's users is that the users can really only censor themselves. There is no central authority that can decide to censor certain content, no one to hold accountable for the network itself, other than the individual users and the nodes they provide. Given a reasonable level of cryptographic security, nodes would really not even have a way to pick stuff to censor out of the torrented streams, except for the stream they receive for their own edification.
Any censors that arise can simply not be joined by nodes that aren't interested in complying with their standards. Such censors would necessarily be voluntary organizations, communities people could join, not overlords that could force compliance.
A feature of blockchains is that the default treatment of data absent functional software to process it is nothing. Accounts are natively frozen until a node decides to include them. Nodes can simply exclude any data, such as spam, transactions from their mother-in-law, or whatever their heart doesn't desire from their stack at their sole option. Failing to process data has repercussions and reciprocity, so folks that don't stream the network data uncensored will likely be censored themselves.
This creates a value proposition that folks adding content to the streams must consider. If it's excluded from too many streams as not worth the cost to process, that user is censored. In this voluntarist network, censorship is the default state, and so are frozen accounts. Folks need to make agreements and form societies to enable interactions and commerce. This means that how those interactions and commerce are undertaken is entirely voluntary and at will. It's not there by default. You have to make it happen.
I note the former Stinc devs are at liberty presently, having had to resign Stinc when faced with supporting a hostile takeover of Steem. @theoretical is even posting that they are actually undertaking developing a new platform, and I bet all the former employees of Stinc have at least a passing interest in doing so. @gerbino, @andrarchy, @blocktrades, @vandeberg, @sneak, and any others I missed, in addition to @theoretical and @dantheman, have all worked on Steem, and are sure to have great insight regarding it's weaknesses and strengths.
I'd sure like to hear from ya'll regarding a distributed social media platform, and particularly criticisms of what I've discussed here so that I can waste no further time on useless ideas and cut to the chase.
Many, many other devs and competent folks, including our witnesses, with an interest in sovereignty and decentralization besides them as worked on Steem are also notable hereabouts, and any criticism of these ideas would be welcome from anyone that cares to comment.
I won't say I'm writing off Steem. I have very much enjoyed it, and look forward to continuing to do so into the future. But I think it's obvious that there's a lot of questions regarding that future, or if there even is one beyond today.
I will say however, that I'd very much like to see what a distributed social media platform could become, and whether such a network could also grow to resist censorship from ISPs, registrars, and other overlords of the interwebz that are rattling their swords of late. It would potentially be amazing were such a distributed social site mesh networked and beyond such ordinary control mechanisms.
Frankly, given the world we're seeing come into focus, I suspect that's the only way we're going to be able to speak freely and hear good folks tell the truth about what they are seeing happen. It's very possible that in three months it will be impossible to walk the streets a free man and see things for ourselves, because governments are going to impose quarantines for SARS2, and we have to wonder whether they'll ever relinquish such power after they seize it.
The world is going to be a very different place, very soon. We're going to need new tools to prosper, or even just to survive, in new conditions. Do let me know what you think about my ideas, or what you think will be more useful, better, or more timely.