A Decentralized Digital Future: How Blockchain Could Transform User Autonomy

Words by Kalyx Lyons, Project Manager
Published January 14, 2022
Last Updated July 3, 2024

A privacy-focused internet is becoming the new global standard — see our leadership’s take in The Cookiepocalypse — and we’re keeping an eye on this shift so we can advise our clients appropriately.

Top Takeaways | Real Impact

  • The social media model is shapeshifting toward decentralized digital content.
  • A blockchain network founded on transparency and trust between Big Tech and the everyday user is a necessity.
  • User-first social media ecosystems thrive with individual data ownership and thorough cybersecurity.

Current conversations of authenticity indicate that targeting audiences through purposeful marketing initiatives that are genuine, legitimate and trusted is the key to a new age of cybersecurity. It is important for Big Tech to apply user data responsibly when making informed decisions. With an expanding global network, we’re taking a closer look at how we, as internet users, web creatives, and developers, are linked to the blockchain.

Blockchain technology is a foundation upon which many other technologies, such as cryptocurrency, can be built. However, it does have many other uses and some drawbacks, because not enough people are familiar with what blockchain is or how it works. We’ll delve into some of that here.

What Is a Blockchain?

Centralized data is controlled and verified by one authority. Decentralization, through the blockchain, flips this concept on its head and stores user data among thousands of devices. This makes it an increasingly difficult system for bad actors to corrupt.

A blockchain is a decentralized database. A normal database is centralized to one computer or systems network. The blockchain, on the other hand, is stored in multiple computers across a network of locations. Each of these locations is called a “node” and is password-protected with a permanent digital code. A node has a finite capacity for information, so as more content is added, the chain grows. This is a unique way to track and support the transfer of information that fights against fraud and copyright infringement.

Through decentralization, the nodes verify user data. Therefore, the blockchain makes it harder for an entire network to be negatively affected, as each node must be hacked. Every transaction in the blockchain is recorded in a public ledger, and others cannot change the data within the ledger. Each new transaction also must be approved by the others in the network, so everything is transparent.

Lock and Key

Some are skeptical of the blockchain. Fear and distrust can be alleviated with more knowledge of how the blockchain works. For example, many people may appreciate learning that the blockchain is built upon authenticity and transparency. There are many online programs offering certificates in blockchain to help people improve their knowledge and be less intimidated by this technology.

With so many experiences rooted in tech, it is still possible to protect user data while leveraging it to make informed decisions as a marketer. Marketers need to be mindful of security, and the blockchain stands as their point of accountability.

As an example of how the technology works for a program that many people use, take Gmail. When a Gmail account is created, all the data is stored on Google’s centralized servers. Users must trust that Google will keep all the data private and not sell their data to third parties. If Gmail is hacked, all the email accounts held by Gmail could be vulnerable. That’s why virtually everyone, at some point, gets a notification that a site they have registered on through their email was hacked and that their personal information was compromised. Decentralizing the servers makes your information more secure.

Let’s Talk About Crypto

The blockchain can be further investigated by taking a closer look at one of many real-world applications — cryptocurrency. There’s a good chance you’ve had a conversation in the past month about crypto: what it is, who’s behind it, and how to spend it wisely. Cryptocurrency’s blockchain is arguably the driving force behind the current buzz about decentralization. Cryptocurrency takes its name from cryptography, the art of writing and solving codes. Relying on the blockchain to ensure the security of its digital footprint, cryptocurrency has the potential to create long-lasting trust within user relationships and cybersecurity.

Bitcoin is the most commonly known cryptocurrency, and it is rooted in a blockchain. The shiny gold coin with a “B” on it may not be tangible, but it does hold a great amount of weight. The value of a single bitcoin fluctuates depending on the amount of money people are willing to trade for it. Each bitcoin is backed by a record of all exchanges and transactions — in other words, a blockchain.

On the Horizon

Granting users the right to their own content shouldn’t be a revolutionary idea. Period. Social media has been the core of marketing and information circulation for the past decade. Users are becoming ambassadors of a decentralized social media movement leading to the rise in popularity of systems that utilize blockchain technology, including non-fungible tokens (NFTs), cryptocurrencies, and smart contracts.

Data Analytics

Informed decision-making rests on data analytics. Marketers’ ability to leverage a digital ecosystem of contact points between their brand and any population of users has immeasurable potential in a decentralized future. A database record of digital currency activity through platforms such as Chainlink or OnChain would only scratch the surface when it comes to potential use for marketers with expertise in behavioral observation.

Content Creation and Circulation

Content creators have long grappled with how to truly own their work. The minute their creation goes live, it feels out of their protective reach. Protecting the copyright of any one piece of content can be tricky, but authentication is a step toward empowering creatives. Decentralization may be the answer to the age-old question of how to protect a creator’s copyright. Blockchain technology makes it easier to verify the authenticity and rarity of different pieces of art and collector’s items, helping their work maintain value. Content creators may also be able to see more of the proceeds of sales of their art in the long run, even taking a commission when their art gets sold.

If corrupted information appears along the decentralized chain of nodes, it is easier to pinpoint and fix because of the differentiation from the other nodes that are also tracking the information tied to that same piece of work.

Gamification Through Unlikely Tokens

Many brands may begin to tokenize their reward systems, invoking play-to-win marketing tactics in incentivized systems of engagement. Tokens, by nature, offer a link between a digital experience and a tangible reward. If reward-system tokens offer uses similar to cash, they may be more successful. Cross-brand collaboration may incentivize corporations and other keepers of reward tokens to enter into a network of compatible businesses where reward tokens can be redeemed.

Payments

The rise of crypto credit cards, options to pay in crypto on banking platforms, and buy-now-pay-later services such as Klarna, Affirm, and Afterpay have changed the way goods and payments are circulated. The way we make payments and the level at which we decide to consume are changing rapidly. Cryptocurrency dares to address a behavioral shift in the average consumer. Due to cryptocurrency’s large impact, crypto coins are starting to become an option for payment among small and large retailers.

Supply Chain Tracking

Access to a public ledger of logistics and supply chain activity could provide streamlined communications between partners who collaborate on everything from a creative brainstorm to business administration to search engine optimization. Greater integrity of the data being exchanged, backed by the hard-to-hack nature of the blockchain, could mean that partners could work together more efficiently and with the trust that information is accurate and up-to-date. Retailers, food producers and more can use blockchain technology to track every part of the supply chain more efficiently and accurately — for example, to discover where something went wrong