Frequently Asked Questions

About DSNP DSNP and Social Media

Using DSNP The DSNP community

About DSNP

What is DSNP?

DSNP stands for Decentralized Social Networking Protocol, which is an open protocol and potential standard for social media. It is not owned or controlled by any one person or company, allowing anyone to build on it or use it.

What is an open protocol?

An open protocol is a well-defined way of doing things that is used to make it easier to work together. The reason you can plug any kind of appliance in your country into any socket in your house is that there is an underlying standard that defines how these things work. An official/government group got together and defined the standard for electrical power in your country. Open protocols are like standards except anyone can contribute to them and they are often not enforced by law. Protocols may eventually become more formalized as standards.

Why are open protocols important?

Open protocols are important because they allow a lot of people and companies to work on and innovate around an idea at the same time. This fosters healthy competition which means that innovation can happen much faster, and people have choices over which providers they use or products they buy. The internet is built upon a protocol called TCP/IP. This protocol being open is a large part of the reason why the internet grew so quickly to become a place where millions of companies and billions of people can communicate and build things together.

What is the difference between a protocol and a platform?

A protocol is a specific set of rules and practices that manage communication of data between different devices or systems. The early internet was built upon many important open protocols like SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol). Use of these protocols helped the internet rapidly evolve to an open, interoperable ecosystem where everyone could share and participate.

A platform is a wider concept that contains a complete environment for creating and running applications. When we talk about social media platforms, we are typically talking about those that are owned by a single company or entity like Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and YouTube. While privately-owned platforms often leverage existing open protocols, it is important to understand that these platforms are actually locking people in rather than allowing them to remain in an open, interoperable ecosystem.

DSNP and Social Media

What is a social graph?

In a social media platform, your social graph represents all of the connections and relationships you have on that platform. This would include those people and channels you follow as well as your followers and any friends you have on the platform. As you spend time on a social media platform, this web of relationships becomes a very important part of your user experience and the value you get from being a member.

What’s wrong with current social media platforms?

There are three major problems with social media: people are trapped, people have no choice or awareness of how their data is managed, and platforms can change the rules about how they are run at any time.

How can people get trapped on a social media platform?

Currently social media is dominated by a few companies and platforms like Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube and TikTok. People may choose among these companies and platforms to decide where they wish to connect with other people and share their content. And if someone has friends on multiple social media platforms, they have to recreate their relationships on each one. Then, once they choose a platform, they cannot move their friends or their content to another platform. They are essentially stuck there. If you choose to leave a platform or are kicked off a platform, you leave all of your relationships and content behind.

Why are people using DSNP systems no longer trapped?

Traditional social media platforms work somewhat like mobile phone companies used to work. Initially, when you signed up with a cell phone company and got a number, you could not bring your cell phone number with you when you switched to another cell phone company. This meant if you wanted to change to a different cell phone company you had to leave your old number behind and call everyone you know to tell them your new number. Now, regulations in most countries ensure you can take your mobile phone number with you from provider to provider. In a similar way, people in the DSNP ecosystem will be able to take their relationships (called their social graph) and their content with them from one DSNP application to another. This allows people to have a choice about their social media beyond the “like it or leave it” policy of most current social media platforms.

Why don’t people have choice or awareness of how their data is used on current social media platforms?

Most social media platforms don’t cost people money, but that doesn’t mean these social media platforms are free. Most social media platforms make money by collecting vast amounts of data about each customer such as their age, sex and location. This data is often packaged and sold to other companies, and it is used to target ads for each customer across not only the social media app but other apps and websites used by that individual. How and why this data is used is mostly unclear to people, and this data may be used even after they choose to leave a social media platform.

How does DSNP create choices for people?

Because anyone may contribute to or build upon DSNP, people will have access to a wide range of compatible and interoperable social media products. Much like the current internet allows people to move freely from one page to another or one product or platform to another, DSNP will create a universe of products and applications for people to choose.

Why can platforms change the rules whenever they want?

Most social media platforms are run by private companies. They can change the rules about how their platform works at any time. Basically, people have no choice but to leave the platform, all their relationships and their content behind, or put up with it.

How does the open protocol DSNP address the problems with social media?

There are certain principles built into DSNP that make it a suitable foundation for a healthier ecosystem that can help eliminate many of the problems of current social media platforms.

First and foremost, DSNP is an open protocol that allows anyone to contribute to it or build applications upon it. This means that multiple interoperable products will be built in this ecosystem, which will give people choices about which product is best for them.

Secondly, DSNP-based applications are expected to allow everyone to bring their data, relationships and content with them when they move from one DSNP application to another, which means people can move freely from one DSNP-based application to another.

Third, DSNP-based applications are expected to be very clear about how user data is managed and allow people to have meaningful control over how their data is used after they leave.

And finally, via cooperation with blockchain tools, DSNP systems may allow people to have a say in how the ecosystem is run via a process called governance.

How is DSNP different from other decentralized social media systems like Bluesky and Mastodon?

There are other companies creating products in the decentralized social networking space, but each of these are different from DSNP in important ways.

Mastodon is not a social networking protocol like DSNP. Rather it is a social networking platform that exchanges data using a different social networking protocol called ActivityPub. While DSNP and ActivityPub are both decentralized social networking protocols, ActivityPub is more focused on interoperability across a federated network of servers (known as the “fediverse”) while DSNP is more focused on enabling people to directly control their identity and social graph. Also, DSNP is designed to be more user friendly in transitioning existing social media users from existing (web2) applications and services.

Bluesky is also not a social networking protocol like DSNP. Rather, it is a social networking platform and application focused on microblogging (short text excerpts similar to Twitter’s original model). Users may not join the platform without an invitation from BlueSky or one of its users. Bluesky is an open platform that runs on the AT Protocol, a federated approach that puts more emphasis on the ability for users to host their own content, though most Bluesky users rely on the application to do this for them. Bluesky includes a number of features—such as pluggable content moderation rules—that could also be applied in principle to applications in the DSNP ecosystem.

Using DSNP

When can I benefit from DSNP?

People are already benefiting from DSNP. Next-gen social network MeWe has used DSNP to effortlessly migrate their social media application from a centralized model to a decentralized social web model while offering future options for choice and for governance. A growing number of organizations, open source projects, and application developers are working now to integrate DSNP’s interoperable identity, social graph, and social media functionality.

Why would I leave the social media platforms I know and have used for years?

Some users will elect to keep their old social media platform connections moving forward. However, it is a very good idea to add a decentralized social media platform like DSNP to your social media mix:

  1. Owning your data on a DSNP system means you will never lose connection with your social graph. So even if you choose to leave or get arbitrarily kicked off a traditional social media platform (which happens surprisingly often) you will still have a way to stay in contact with those who matter most to you.
  2. Owning your social graph also means that no matter what, you can keep relationships with your followers. When you leave (or are asked to leave) a centralized social media platform, you lose your entire base of followers—the audience of hundreds, thousands or even millions that you carefully built over time. With a DSNP system, you will not face this same risk.
  3. A DSNP system also offers a higher level of privacy than traditional platforms. You can follow a person or channel privately if you wish. And should you choose to leave a DSNP system, you have an irrefutable right to notify all applications to remove your content entirely if you wish.
  4. Some DSNP systems will offer transparency and control via governance. This means you can choose a system that is open about how it works and what it does with your data and will allow you to participate in how the community is run.

Will I notice a difference in my experience of using social apps?

You may notice a difference in your social media user experience and you may not. It depends on which DSNP-based application you choose. In some cases, web2 social media platforms (like MeWe) are transitioning to the decentralized future via DSNP. They are using DSNP to change what is “under the hood” of their application with minimal changes to the user experience. Some application providers may elect to create brand new user experiences. What you experience is based on which applications you pick.

What control will I have over my data?

DSNP-based applications are expected to be extremely clear about how a person’s data is managed and allow people some meaningful control over that data. For example, should you wish to leave a service, you can request that the provider no longer display your content on their public sites. People may choose to have public relationships and content which everyone knows about, or private relationships and content that is known only to those the person chooses.

Where will my data be stored?

People who use DSNP applications may have their data stored in one or several places. The DSNP specification ensures that important pieces of your social identity do not need to depend on an application provider for storage. Typically, a DSNP application that runs over a blockchain such as Frequency will store a limited amount of data “on chain” which means in the blockchain itself. This data may include your pseudonymous (non-personally identifying) DSNP User Id, the pseudonymous DSNP User Ids of those with whom you have relationships (your social graph), and several types of keys including public keys and control keys (which are used to prove ownership of your data as well as encrypt and decrypt private data). The vast majority of the content you generate (like your posts and shared photos and videos) will be stored on the servers of the applications you choose. You may request that this data no longer be displayed on public sites and be removed entirely from the application servers, and you are free to keep your own backups.

The DSNP Community

What about the DSNP community?

We at Project Liberty are proud of the thriving community we are building around the Decentralized Social Networking Protocol (DSNP), an ethical, open protocol and potential standard for social media. Building the DSNP community remains our top priority and we are working fervently to involve everyone even more in our progress and future plans. We meet regularly with our experienced and high-profile panel of DSNP Advisors to work through various aspects of the protocol including ethics, use cases, specifications, governance and the growth of the ecosystem. We also schedule regular open meetings with DSNP developers and community members to solicit feedback, contributions, and suggestions and keep everyone up to date on the evolution of the protocol. We also work closely with partners, both in expanding existing relationships such as those with Harvard University, Stanford University and MIT, and soliciting new partnerships. Should you have any interest in joining our DSNP community, we strongly encourage you to review our mission and principles and join our next DSNP Spec Discussion.