The Creator’s Ultimate Guide to Web3 Social

Stani Kulechov, the founder of Aave and Lens Protocol, joins season 6 to discuss his vision for web3 social.
Stani Kulechov, the founder of Aave and Lens Protocol, joins season 6 to discuss his vision for web3 social.

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Mint Season 6 episode 18 welcomes the founder of Aave and Lens Protocol, Stani Kulechov. Throughout the hour we discuss his vision for web3 social, how creators use crypto to communities, how creators make money on Lens, user-generated content as an asset class, migrating collectors from other chains onto Lens, how to use the lens social graph outside of their protocol, and so much more.

I hope you guys enjoy our conversation.

Time Stamps

  • 00:00 – Intro
  • 00:12 – The Current Web3 Social Landscape
  • 03:15 – Web2 Social Problems That Web3 Aims to Fix
  • 08:31 – What is Lens Protocol?
  • 11:23 – Building the Web3 Social Network Experience
  • 17:23 – Thoughts on the Music NFT Wave
  • 20:55 – How Do Creators Make Money on Lens?
  • 22:37 – Tools Missing on Lens Protocol
  • 26:32 – The Asset Class of User-Generated Content
  • 30:42 – Creators That Own Their Audience
  • 34:22 – Converting a Different Collector Base to Lens
  • 37:53 – Leveraging Your Social Graph Across Other Networks
  • 40:48 – Risks That Come With Owning Your Social Graph
  • 43:55 – How Do You Build Collaboration Versus Competitiveness?
  • 47:27 – Community-Specific Applications Built On Lens
  • 50:09 – Scaling to Facebook’s Level
  • 54:18 – Sub-Communities That May Create a Cultivator DAO Experience
  • 56:09 – The Overlap Between DeFi and Web2 Social
  • 58:14 – How Does Lens Make Money?
  • 01:00:12 – Outro

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Stani Kulachov, welcome to mint, how are you doing my friend? Thanks for being on.

Stani Kulechov: Very, very good. I can’t remember when we last time actually did this.

The Current Web3 Social Landscape

Last time we did this, I was working at Draper going home and we were on blockchain and booze. And I think it was during the defi madness. And you’re the only person or one of the few people that I reached out to, to talk about their protocol in their application that actually answered me, and was able to put a face behind their projects. So, I’ll never forget that. You were super early on in my creator journey. So, I’m really excited to be kind of doing this episode with you and figuring out what are you working on now? What is lens and all that good stuff? So, I don’t think you need an introduction. I think the crypto community knows who you are. But I think a good place to start because I want to focus this conversation around web three social, okay. I’m curious to hear your perspective. Let’s just set the tone. How are you seeing the current web three social landscape? And any interesting applications, trends, or just anything in general to kind of give the listener idea of what’s happening in web through social right now?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, I think we were very, actually extremely early on web three social. So, the applications we’ve seen, and even the protocols are pretty much trying to solve like one of the earliest problems in diversity, social space, things like how do you create a profile that belongs to you and have portability between one application to another? And you have the two ownerships of that profile or how do you connect with between different peers? And how you can like, repaint that connectivity with the peers? And also like, how do you actually distribute content across the social landscape. So, there’s multiple different things that the early protocols and applications are trying to solve. And I think like a lot of things are deriving from the idea of that, we’ve been feeding and building this web two social where, you know, previously, it was very difficult to actually create and distribute content across the globe across the internet. And what the bigger social media companies actually did is they provided a platform for users, any user to actually create content, and then connect with their peers on areas that might be interesting to them. Now, we’re in the face of, hey, we actually can do this in a more decentralized fashion. So, what do we can actually recreate? And let’s try to recreate, you know, the Instagram of the world and the Twitter’s of the world. And, like, basically, we architecture in the current ecosystem and I don’t know if it’s that that’s the right way to do it. Like, do we should we actually try to decentralize something like Twitter? Or should we actually try to find new ways and new applications and use cases that enables because of the battery aspect?

Web2 Social Problems That Web3 Aims to Fix

Yeah. I think one of the more interesting things that I’m seeing on the web through social front is how creators build audiences, and monetize audiences in web three. And before we sort of go into the different tactics and strategies that maybe you’re seeing, I still want to kind of like unveil the problem that web three, web two social kind of like failed at, right? And how web three social aims to fix that, can you shed more light on that topic?

Stani Kulechov: Well, the way I see what’s not working in the web two social space is that you as a creator, you build this magnificent, exciting audience around yourself, for example, but you usually build up, you know, specific platforms. So, for example, many of us who are very active in the crypto space, we tend to build our audiences in Twitter, and we call it actually crypto Twitter, because all of our networking is there. But there are many creators that have audiences, for example, in Instagram, based on what they create, and what kind of content they’re actually creating. Or it might be Tik Tok, as well, or any other platform, actually, it can be even not that social, for example, Spotify, where you have distribution, and you have audits. So basically, what happens is that the creators, they’re generated this massive amount of user generated content and feeding the content liquidity into the platforms and end of the day they, it’s the platforms that are actually benefiting from that content, and barriers data points that the users are generating by liking different kinds of posts, sharing them, or just spending time watching one particular video. So effectively, ultimatelyzation actually happens within the platform in a way where it’s the platform that is taking all or most of the proceeds. This, for example, is happening with Tik Tok. Twitter is a good example where you might be sharing a lot of content to your audience, you’re creating everyday content, but it’s actually the platform behind that it’s getting all the monetization, and you are kind of like you’re benefiting to draw in your audience, but you really don’t have the portability of the audience or actually, direct way to monetize.

Yeah, I think with all the Elon Musk Twitter, Jack Dorsey field that’s happening online. Now. There’s like that whole court trial. One, I’m curious to get your opinion on the whole acquisition take and what may happen over there. But to what’s even more interesting is all these conversations that are surfacing between Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, and how Jack Dorsey was like, I wish Twitter was a protocol, right, in a decentralized fashion. And sort of alludes to maybe what the vision that you have for web three social is kind of like coming in building towards right. Am I getting that correctly or what do you think about the entire situation?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, I guess like, what’s been happening there is that, you know, there’s definitely value creating a more decentralized networking, and way to share content, and also a more decentralized way of preserving your identity. So, I guess, like, what’s as be challenging for Twitter is that, in many of these platforms is that the way they’re build is that they’re actually, you know, extracting value from the users and from the creators, and that value goes to the shareholders. Now, in protocols, the idea is that a protocol is just a way of connecting with peers, and preserving some of the values and what the tree is doing with protocols also is, giving the ownership of those protocols to the users and letting the communities to steer how those protocols will be improved in the future. And to be honest, like, I definitely agree that Twitter can work pretty well as open protocol, it will mean that anyone can actually innovate and compete with the data. But also having something like on chain profile would mean that you could actually have the ownership of the audience you create, and yourself expression, and no one can actually take that away from you. So, giving those rights to the users brings a lot of benefits. And I think, why it’s valuable discussion now is that, we spend for the past couple of, actually a few years building this very fascinating financial infrastructure on top of the web two ecosystem. And now with the NFTs and creator economy, we’re actually seeing a lot of power and opportunity to actually empowering creators and empowering the actual users of social media. And I think that’s why it’s becomes even more, this discussion is taking place now than, than ever before.

What is Lens Protocol?

So, I think that’s actually a perfect segue to give me like a more formal introduction to what lens protocol is because you talked about empowering the user, empowering the network, to own their profile, own their content, own the data. Can you introduce, to someone who’s maybe not familiar with web three, for example, how would you explain lens protocol to them?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, so lens protocol, it allows you to create your profile once and retain the ownership of the profile. So, you’re not locked into any platform specifically. So, any application that is built on top of the protocol, you as a user have the flexibility to access those applications. And you don’t need to give up your follower base or profile into one particular application. So, this brings sort of freedom for the users. And also, it changes the dynamics because this means that anyone can actually freely build a better or new algorithm, how you find and discover other users or content across the lens protocol or across web three ecosystem in general. And also, the experiences actually have to compete first time ever on your kind of like a, I would say like, as a user, you can you can vote with your feet, which of the experiences are more just aligned towards finding, maybe content that you might like more or what values are important for you as a user, and what, it actually makes those applications more of communities. So, for example, Twitter is a community, but you can’t really actually affect how Twitter’s built in the future, besides giving feedback. But here, you can actually have skin in the game and actually vote with your feet. If you if you find an application, that it’s actually more aligned to what your expectations are, so it changes those dynamics quite easily. So that’s the kind of interesting parts that that actually, your profile is secured with the blockchain. But actually, it’s the applications that can choose how they reflect data. So, you can effectively use an application that reflects the data and stores it on a decentralized file storage, just like IPFS. Or you can choose an application that stores data in a cloud, just as a traditional social media application, but you still have the ownership of your profile. So as a protocol, it gives flexibility for the users, but also for the developers to choose how they want to build their application and how much decentralization they want to have in their own particular use case.

Building the Web3 Social Network Experience

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I remember in the beginning, when lens protocols sort of came out, it started with this tweet of yours kind of saying we’re gonna build Twitter on Ethereum. Right? When Jack Dorsey countered the whole Bitcoin should be the network of choice, or when they started integrating Bitcoin more religiously across Twitter, you sort of had this epiphany, like, we need to build Twitter on Ethereum. Right. And I remember initially, one of the sorts of features that stood out to you, that stood out to me the most as a creator was the ability to collect something, right. And of course, like in web three, collecting in supporting a creator is like it’s second nature. But the way you’ve sort of orchestrated is that, I can collect a post, for example, on Leinster, right. And I remember in the beginning, I was skeptical about it until I actually got on the platform and saw the power of being able to collect something. And it got me really rethinking of the entire model of building an audience in web three. And in web two, you sort of have the subscribes, you have these followers. But in web three, you collect and show your level of patronage, you show your level of contribution, by sort of proving you were there by having something in your wallet, right. And that entire shift sort of changed the way how I think about building an audience because I use a lot of web two to sort of build virality and distribution, but I use web three to capture that value. And now on Leinster, across lens protocol, all these cool applications are popping up, where I can actually do both. Now I can build an audience and capture that value in web three, which I think is super unique, super unique to Lenster, can you talk more about sort of building out that initial product flow, that initial experience for users to have that web three feel of a social network?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, I mean, obviously, when you create your profile, and you have the ownership also, whoever follows you basically have that relationship between you and your audience. So, you can actually move from one application to another, and you don’t lose that audience, which is very valuable for the creators. But what that audience does for you is that, you actually have a direct way to distribute content to your peers, regardless of the applications built on top. So, the applications itself are effectively tailoring the user experience, curating what data users should see and how they should discover new content. But as a creator, from creator’s perspective, effectively, like collect is what the founder of, from mirror actually pretty well, the collect is the new like, so effectively, you just don’t like what you actually like with skin in the game. Which means that you can do that contribution and in return, you get a user generated content that is actually an asset and creating music, generally content as an asset classis as well. And as a concept. It’s not really that novel, because we already have this idea of being able to share digital art across your own community in form of NFTs. And in return, you actually you get, as a user, you make a contribution as a fan, and get in return the asset and you are part of that community. And I think the same thing is happening in music, NFTs, and also it resembles me quite a lot. My spare hobby where I collect vinyl’s, to go to different record shops and buy vinyl’s because you know, I like the feeling of having a physical piece as music, and at the same time having like, a utility and hearing the audio, as well. 

And I think I think kind of like taking that concept in theater and thinking that actually, when we are paying for music, are we actually paying for listening or are we paying for distribution? Or are we actually paying to support the artists to actually create more in the future? And this is where the kind of like a radical mind change happens, where we have to think about like, is the way we create an IP anymore something that is reflecting what the thing about culture art content in general? And should we actually go directly to a model where, you know, we actually contribute to the creator by basically buying digital content and have that provenance as well. And I think that’s something that we baked into the lens protocol, in a way that all the content if you choose so, can be collectible as an NFTs, meaning that actually, it’s the market and the users and the followers that can actually benchmark and decide what content is valuable based on how they collect. And you can also charge for the collection or have it as free NFTs. But the main point is that when we look at also like content tokenization, we’ve seen previously examples where the dodge memes was token as NFT, Vinyl and cat as well, and the other one was sold for $4 million. So you’ve seen the retroactive tokenization of user generated content and memes, specifically, in this case, when it actually bringing that model into the spot where the actual content is created, and letting actually the early adopters of that content and early fans to decide how valuable or culturally relevant that content is and creating that value looping into that content.

One thing I didn’t know about you is that you collect vinyls, I think that’s pretty cool. How many how many vinyls Have you collected to date? Do you have a number?

Stani Kulechov: I don’t have that many. I think I have roughly, I think I have a couple of hundreds, one fifty or so. Probably even more.

Thoughts on the Music NFT Wave

That’s quite a bit. That’s quite a bit. So, on that tangent Okay, on the collecting Vinyl tangent, there’s just music collector, his name is Bin Zedeway. He’s, I’ve never met someone that loves music more than him. He’s a big music NFT collector. And he wrote this really fascinating blog post sort of reflecting on his experience collecting a vinyl to then collecting a music NFT because we’re already on the subject, what do you think on the entire like music NFT trend that’s happening, with all these artists kind of like breaking steam, finding creative liberation through their music? What do you think about all that?

Stani Kulechov: I think there’s little value in that, because I just see, there’s like a lot of layers at the moment that has been built in the music industry. And many of the monetization layers are based on the copyright, intellectual property, which is, which has been working to some extent quite well, up to this date. So, you can guarantee that, you know, musicians, when they create content, they can be rewarded afterwards as the content is consumed. But at the same time, IP has its own challenges. And I think because of the fact that you can actually verify who is the creator of the content and owner, you can create more interesting, parallel economies and monetization models that are based on the own chain aspect of content. So, for example, that if I, if I know that there’s a very good artist that is playing very good music, and creating very good music, I should be able to support it directly and have that contribution on chain. And because they have that contribution on chain, and I have that digital asset that creates me more accessibility to other kinds of things. 

But also, I’m more of a believer of this idea on chain, kind of like property, commercial property rights. So, I think that you could actually create content and revoke all rights to that content, in terms of intellectual property. And at the same time, you can create different kinds of on chain commercial rights. For example, if you want to use my piece of content. Let’s say that I create a nice drumkits and into your song, you can actually split fees that you collect between us together, so it’s more of kind of like a altruistic model and you’re actually kind of like attributing to other creators. But I just feel that that might be the more aligned model in our open-source economy and how we can actually build better monetization models compared to IP and the restrictions that they’re bringing, because I think that what IP is doing, and I’m talking from also my lawyer hat, as, as you know that I’m also a lawyer in my background, so basically, that you are limiting the innovation and creativity with IP. But in an ideal world, you don’t want to limit creativity. And actually, you want to get the creativity and innovation to thrive. And I think that’s what open source as software has been doing for a long time now. And I think we have to somehow translate that into all the kind of like a more creative industry as well.

How Do Creators Make Money on Lens?

Yeah, makes sense. On that thought of monetization, how do creators make money on lens? What does that look like?

Stani Kulechov: Well, in the protocol itself, we’ve baked a couple of interesting ways to monetize, one direct way to monetize is, allowing the users to collect the content NFTs. So effectively, you’re buying a digital asset as NFT from the user generated content from the creator. But at the same time, you can also if you have a bigger audience, you can mirror someone else’s content to your audience. And if someone collects that paid content, you can actually get middling fees, yourself. So, there is like, there’s the idea of monetization of actually, directly from the users. But also, the curators can get monetization by sharing the content to their own audiences. And these are the just two models that we have baked into the protocol. But if actually, you can build more into that, so you can build your own ways to monetize, you can still create some sort of transparent promoted advertising as well. And this is something that someone is actually building on top of the, our protocol or you can sell some sort of visualizations, as well. So, like, the protocol itself, it’s flexible on what do you want to use in your application, it’s more of like a business decision, what you have to do, by yourself or with your community.

Tools Missing on Lens Protocol

My favorite feature at the moment with lens protocol and just sort of how I’ve seen people use it on Leinster is the mirror feature. I think it’s one of the coolest things that creators can tap into as a way to incentivize virality, right, incentivize collaboration, and sort of like reward. So, the way it works that I’ve seen is like, let’s say you post a piece of art, right? And you can set this rule where every time somebody reshares it and mirrors it, they can basically earn 10% on that. Right. And it really aligns incentives. And it’s a cool way to kind of build a viral effect online. I don’t know, I think it’s really cool. Are there any other ways, any other tools that you think are missing from the lens protocol, from the tool stack on lens, that have yet to be built out? Anything you can share?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, a ton, I think like, we just, we kind of built the bare, like, bare minimum in terms of what you can actually do in social media. And so, the way the lens protocol itself is built, it’s sparker check based protocol. So, you first you create a profile, then you can follow other profiles and every profile can publish content. And the content can be reflected on chain, it can be off chain, in a decentralized file storage, depending on the application use case. So, you kind of like choose the amount of decentralization you want to have. But what’s exciting is that you have these different kinds of modules. So, you have follow modules. So, for example, you can create a smart contract-based module, which says that, you pay to follow, let’s say, a creator, but then if the creator collects monetization feeds from the collects, those are split with the followers, kind of creating some sort of creator crowd funding or something similar in that sense, and you can create different kinds of modules also for commenting. So, one of the earliest things because of the size of the lens protocol is that, there’s currently 80,000 profiles at the moment. And in the beginning, there was a few of the bots so we actually started very early to experiment, how we can get off, get rid of the bots that are in the protocol. And what we created is this kind of like a module where you can comment to my post, if I don’t follow you, but some of my friends follows you. And you can actually set the degree up to, let’s say, six or so. 

So, for example, if I set the degree two like two, it means that if we have a common friend, then you can comment, if I set it to three, that means that you can comment if we don’t have a common friend, but that someone has, my friend has a friend who is friend with you. And this is based on the idea of that every single person in the planet is connected by six degrees of separation of people. And it has been super effective at the moment. I think, if Twitter starts to use this, tomorrow, you stop seeing those crypto, spammy bots that you get all the time in your feed. So, this is a smart contract-based module. And I think the cover on smart contract-based modules and also like the composability, is that you can create these rules, and you can’t really circumvent them, because they’re smart, contract-based computation, and anyone can actually come in and contribute to the modules.

The Asset Class of User-Generated Content

I love that. I think that’s a really, really powerful feature, as a way to sort of curate quality, and a new experiment to see how you can use an on chain social graph, right, to kind of figure out connections, deviations, all these interesting things that we may be used in real life. But now you can sort of implement digitally. I think another cool feature of the mirror element is that one of the most direct forms of monetization that creators use today, is through affiliate links, right? Whether it be their Amazon affiliate link, or some type of brand that they collaborate with. So being able to embed that directly into the platform into the protocol, I think off the gecko is really powerful. I want to also talk about user generated content as an asset class, because essentially, when you start to implement, like the financialization of everything, give or take, even though there’s a lot of free collect options on lenses, the user has dictation over, what does it mean to a creator sort of to create user generated content that’s an asset class? And what’s the potential behind that?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, I guess it boils down to the same idea that you can create digital art as a collection, and then make it available to purchase or somehow gain within the community. So, the idea that these are successful, because it’s a way for you to participate in the community, and also by a digital good, which can be digital art in most cases, with different kinds of media later, threads, and so forth. The same concept is effectively extended also to content, that is videos, we’ve seen the NBA top jobs work in a similar way. And just any content that you produce, audio, text, and a making it as easy as possible. And I think like the creators, in general, as a user group is interesting, because even in depth to creators aren’t really that well supported, you know, so, the monetization aspect is one. So, you create you as a creator, you always start from the very low level of the food chain. So, you basically have to create a lot of content, you put a lot of proof of work, to actually ensure that the content is something that is interesting consumable. You have little competition, you gain, you have no choice than joining a bigger platform like let’s say Tik Tok and start actually creating a lot of content and creating follower base. And you can’t actually, you don’t have much of control, what you’re doing and your only kind of like goal is to create audience into that platform, and then hopefully, somehow direct traffic, right. But being able to actually create the content right on spot and also having your own distribution channel. It’s equals the same as walking with your own social network. So, it’s not just like it’s like, what Len’s protocol is doing is that it’s giving you your own social network and your own social identity. So that’s, you know, you can choose like how all these applications are reflecting your content. And being able to do that, and being able to distribute your content directly to your followers, without anyone can actually coming in between, takes these creators and puts them into a completely new position and also elevates the content itself. Because I know that this content actually exists as an asset class. And I know that I can get directly from the user, it creates different kinds of elevation for the creators, so they actually own their own distribution and relationships with their audience, which is significantly different than we have now in web two social.

Creators That Own Their Audience

I think a lot of the success of web three social is going to be dependent on used cases of creator’s kind of like seeing success through it, right? Either through building an audience either through making money. And because we’re so early, in the adoption curve of web three social, are there any creators that come to mind that have used a decentralized social graph as a way to kind of like, really, really push the value and push the example of what it actually means to own your audience what it means to own your distribution funnels? Any creators come to mind?

Stani Kulechov: I think in terms of like creators and less protocol, like we have a smaller music creator that come and actually drop content, there’s also like, there are doing it on a daily basis. There are also creators, for example, like the rides that came in did a significant drop within the lens protocol, effectively fundraising directly to their causes. And I think that’s, it’s a valuable tool, but also like, I’m more excited about creators that are coming into the applications, that are built on top of the lens protocol, and starting to create their audiences, which takes more time. The cool part is that, like, once you create your audience, it’s yours to keep, so you aren’t locking yourself into a new platform. And that’s a bigger an important factor to think about. Because if you start investing time into building audience into new application, and that application doesn’t take oh, and I remember this happening during the whole web two, beginning where you saw a lot of reddit, big competitors, and people were spending a lot of time there. And they didn’t go anywhere. You know, there’s Slashdot is still a place, like it even became that big eventually, you have contents of example. 

So, like, you’re actually like, your investment of time is more important, because you can actually wait that someone else creates another application that might be actually more interesting to you. And I’m looking into like, into those creators that are actually building those audiences, and constantly creating a narrative of what kind of content they want to produce. And from the developer’s perspective and application itself. I think like, my idea of like, creating decentralized, Twitter was more of a troll like I never thought about the idea that’s, you know, like competing a Twitter, because Twitter has a very strong social network. So effectively, because you can’t port your audience, and innovate and in web three, you will be able to jump from one application to another, very quickly the same way as you’re swapping one to another. So, it’s kind of like pointless to compete. But what you can actually do is, now that the barrier to enter and build those applications and leverage the fly deal of an existing social graph, you can actually build a new kind of experience, or curate the content in a way that it’s services, one, some sort of a type of activity that is fascinating, or something new, and get that fly deal effect. And I think that’s where most of the attraction will come, where we are seeing something new being built, instead of recreating the old.

Converting a Different Collector Base to Lens

Right. When I think about the evolution of web three social in the context of crypto’s history, I very much think back to 2017 to 2021, when NFT started picking up steam, creators started issuing NFTs and building collector bases, right? And now when I think about lens protocol, it’s like the next evolution of that to tie in that entire network together, right? Because if you’re just building a collective base on Ethereum, there lacks that content distribution through Twitter. But if you’re building on lens, right, and you build a collector based on lens, you sort of tap into the value of distribution in the value of monetization. I think what one of the interesting sorts of onboarding funnels that maybe you guys’ face is how do you port a creators existing collector base that’s already built on a Ethereum, polygon into lens? What does that look like? Because I know for me, I have a bunch of collectors that have collected my free NFTs. Right. But not all of them have a lens profile yet, right? How do we make that transition?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, well, currently, it’s easy, because you can actually collect content without having, I mean, the creator can set the contact rate creating the way where you don’t need to have a profile. So, you can actually not be a lens profile user. But over the long term, what we think is more valuable is that, every user that is collecting will have a lens profile. And effectively what we’re looking to do as protocol developers to be as much as more unopinionated, so where the protocol could be servicing as a network, how the namespace is working, how to create your own namespace and making a bit more flexible for developers to build, actually. And I think that what is interesting about content, actually, is that you can have the same content, but actually, you could create different kinds of ways of letting the user to choose where they want to mint their content. So, for example, I have some NFTs, where actually most of my NFTs are on Ethereum, I have a big chunk of NFT’s on polygon. And then I have NFTs also on optimism. So effectively, you could see the content in one network, but actually initiate a transaction to make that content into a digital asset, into in another network. But also, it boils down to a bigger, this question is, where do you want to see lens protocol? Do you want to see cross chain or do you want to see in a one particular ecosystem? And this is something that’s the community members are saying already how the cross-chain functionality will work and how the scalability will function. And there is also the argument of that because there is the middleware, which is now the lens API, then there’s other middleware, like the graph, which is more decentralized, where RSS free, which is also a way to index the data. And the idea is that while you could actually decentralize that middleware, and you don’t actually mind where the social graph is deployed, because you can get, you have all that data availability that you can capture, because we have a social, it’s more about data than a state.

Leveraging Your Social Graph Across Other Networks

So, on that same topic, you talked about being able to leverage your social graph across other networks. So, paint me a picture of how would a user leverage their social graph outside of lens? What does that look like?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, it’s interesting thing, because we put a lot of value into the social graph. So effectively, your social graph is the strength of your social capital. So, you can actually use that. If you want to distribute collaborative content to your audience directly, have monetization opportunities, but also, I see very valuable used case, in thinking of the civil resistance part. So, for example, if you take the example of a degree separation commenting module, so for example, if we’re able to get rid of the bots in the lens protocol, in the platform itself, you can actually use that as a service to basically have other civil resistant used cases. For example, if you have a game where anyone can participate, but you want to play with people, you know, or real or any other used case where you actually don’t want board activity, you can actually use that social graph. And you can look into, for example, who are the, for example, Adam follows or the people that Adam follows or their friends of friends. And from that, you can actually use that social graph in civil resistance. And another aspect where you can actually use it is, something where you want to create also a reputation score. So, the reputation score is also in that kind of like a civil resistant form. But also, you can create a reputation score. For example, if you want to measure what is your strength of your social capital that you apply into, let’s say, should you be able to legislate to comment on different posts, but for example, should you get a access to a particular user group or access to a loan? So effectively taking the social graph idea and creating more accessibility for the users in a decentralized way and because the social graph is on chain, that data is verified. So that’s the key kind of like a difference, because why do you want to have a profile and the social connections on chain is because you can use this data and that data is verified by the blockchain. And you can use in used cases like the civil resistance, or alternatively, in something like building an on-chain reputation.

Risks That Come With Owning Your Social Graph

What do you think are the risks or responsibilities for a user to own their social graph, to own their distribution, to own their content? What sort of challenges or risks come with that?

Stani Kulechov: I think one of the important things that you have to keep in mind is that, you know, you spend a lot of time of actually building social capital. So, first time ever, that social capital becomes very tangible for you, because you’re not building it into an application and building the follower base in a specific database, but you actually build it yourself. So, whatever you create, you have to also secure the same way as you secure keys, for example, that you might have. And there’s a lot of ways to actually make it a bit more user friendly, for the mainstream audiences, something we’re working on the lens team itself, but also like account abstraction, where you can add something like social recovery directly to your Ethereum addresses and on chain addresses, is something that will help down the line. But basically, securing your cases is one of the aspects that you need to mind. So, it’s more of a challenge of like outside of the protocol. But how do you actually do that. And there’s something we’re currently working. And also like, it’s more of a user experience, thing and a lot of user experience concerns is something that we’ve been addressing down the line all the time.

So for example, the way you interact with one of these applications build on top of the lens protocol. For example, if you go today and use something like Linster, or favor or orbit, the mobile apps, you actually post the content right away, and you don’t, you don’t sign anything, you don’t pay any gas, because you delegate your signing power to a dispatcher, which pays your gas and signs a transaction for you. And also, the UI is built optimistically that you see the transaction, you see actually the content being posted. But the blockchain logic happening in the back end, so you can actually continue your user experience. So, kind of like, when we were building web two social, we also have to rebuild the way we’re building applications. Because we’re not building any more finance, we’re building something where we have to meet the expectations of the users in the web two socials. And then another part, which is important is that you need to build the applications in the right way. So, you need to know where you want to use privacy more, for example, where you want to create transactions that are not on chain, or you can actually remove them later. And so, depending on the use case, and I think that’s the best way to achieve is by community guidance on how to build these different applications based on their used cases.

How Do You Build Collaboration Versus Competitiveness?

Makes sense. I want to jump into audience questions really quick, because one of them is very relevant to what we’re talking about. So this one comes from Charlie of decent dot XYZ. He basically asks on Twitter that there’s tons of vertical specific apps competing on the front end. Are there any concerns about power users always chasing like the next coolest feature, fragmenting maybe friendly activity and making web three social less fun? I guess the question is sort of like coming from the point of view of, if you have these decentralized social graphs, and you have endless applications building on top of it. How do you build stickiness? Right, and how do you sort of build collaboration versus competitiveness?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, it’s a good question, that it’s definitely something what will happen in the beginning that you see users being super excited about, hey, there’s one application and I will love to use this. And, hey, there’s a new application, which makes the same experience that I used on lens but now it’s a mobile, and hey, this application actually finds things I like, faster and actually more accurate way. And I think that’s happens a bit in web two social because we are users have multiple applications. So, you might be using, at the same time, Instagram, Twitter and Tik Tok for different reasons maybe Tik Tok because of the algorithm, and Twitter because of the kind of like a, maybe like a work network or electrical networks there. And like it’s already happening, but I think like inventing social, what I personally believe will happen is that you start to see more of like communities form behind of those applications. So, for example, that I feel Reddit has, as a web two platform has accomplished it to some degree where you’re actually using Reddit because that only that content might be good for you. But also, like, you’re excited about the values and how the moderation and other things are happening community based in Reddit, and then you can find also the relevant content for you in those subreddits. 

So, like, you’re very aligned with the community, the application community. So, you will start seeing that each and every application will have a community behind of it and they will reflect certain values. And this goes towards the recently what we launched with the cultivator Dao. So, cultivator Dao effectively is just a Dao that governs trust and safety, content moderation and curation within the lens ecosystem, but anyone can actually take that cultivator Dao fork it for their own kind of a purpose and have their own policies and said it behind a new or existing application. So I will say that all these applications, they become more of communities. And the reason they are not now in the two social is because they’re more of products where the users are kind of like look and you don’t have you have little choice of choosing algorithms, choosing experiences and have a say or even have part of the monetization that is happening within the platform. And you just choose to be a spectator and consumer than actually a community member. And this is what is going to change now.

Community-Specific Applications Built On Lens

That as you’re talking my mind is absolutely racing, because I’m starting to think what sort of application can I build for my community? Right, and maybe we’re entering a world where all these Daos, all these token base communities start having their own applications that they build out on this decentralized social graph. So now you have my mind sort of like going off on what else can I provide for my community on application web level that they might find interesting. Have you seen communities sort of build out like their own native applications that’s specific for their communities on lens, have we gotten to that stage yet?

Stani Kulechov: I actually saw, like couple forks of Leinster. So, Leinster is just a community to build applications. So, we don’t have a front end actually, for the lens protocol. They’re either built by third parties or community members and Leinster is a open-source front end that anyone can actually port, you can contribute directly, you can help the Lancer team to actually improve the application and it’s actually happening on an ongoing basis. And I’ve seen like couple of like forks where you people have created a smaller given it is, I think if Leinster will be something similar to Reddit in terms of like the ideas of you can create sub communities, we will see probably more of this kind of porting. And probably we will in the future. But that’s, that’s pretty exciting. Because like you can actually just have the user experience that you really want, your community and your committee values and algorithms that are most aligned with what you’re building and as a community in one particular user experience. So, I think that’s kind of like a valuable aspect. And I think another thing that is going to be very big is the monetization. So how the protocol and the front ends that, let’s even put it this way, like the monetization problem will be more on the front-end sides. So how the front ends will divide the monetization between the protocol and the applications because the applications actually, they are the ones that tried distribution for the protocol. So, there is a healthy feedback loop there and then the protocol needs the application because of the distribution and utilization as well. So effectively, we probably will see some sort of forks of the existing smart contract modules where you will see sure featuring between the front end and the protocol.

Scaling to Facebook’s Level

That makes sense. I want to talk more about challenges with building a social graph, let alone lens. This one also comes from the community; this one comes from Nima. How do you plan to scale to Facebook level of usage slash adoption while remaining decentralized and trustless? What does that look like to you?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, I mean, on the infrastructure level, it’s very much basically, going into more layer twos, in the sense that you can do a lot of transactions on Polygon, but down the line, what you need to do is, you have to get into a roll up where you can have a vast bigger throughput for the transaction. And so that’s on the infrastructure layer. And then, on the actual middleware, what we’re planning is to decentralize the middleware. So, we have the lens API, which currently is basically a way of indexing all the data on lens protocol and making it usable for applications that are built on top. And these applications are choosing either going directly to the blockchain or using lens API, or using the graph, or RSS fee. So basically, there, we want to create a decentralized network where network agreement of the data indexing and providing that as a service for the application. So, like, all that infrastructure stack isn’t really that hard, because there’s already a way to scale. The more challenging part actually, is the user experience. So how do you make the user experience accessible and something that works for billions? And when it comes to that level, you need to think of actually all the way down, how do you manage keys? How do you plan the key recovery for the users? And how do you ensure that best experience and also that the content is relevant. 

So, I’m more kind of like, thinking that the bigger heavy lifting is on the application level, and also on that user experience level, where you need to actually show that web three social is actually possible and it’s actually easy to use. And you don’t need to do big compromises to use something like this entire social media. And then there’s the question of like, actually, like, how much security you need from the centralization. So, something like decentralized finance you for example, you might need the Ethereum scaled security, but something where you’re dealing with decentralized social, you want to have the on-chain ecosystem, because you want to secure the profiles. So, no one can drop you out of your profile and your follower base. But then you can actually have a scale on that like, on layer twos or even layer threes and then obviously, on the content side is that not all content, but certainly to be on chain depending on the used case, I would say something like public Dao, discussion forums, could be completely on a public on chain or reflected into a public accessible endpoint like IPFS. But then something that is maybe you want to keep more private can be actually reflected to a cloud instance. So, you have to know what level of decentralization you will choose. And then also making the user experience easy. But the groundbreaking thing is that with lens protocol, you have that scale, so you can choose actually what you want to apply from the stack.

Sub-Communities That May Create a Cultivator DAO Experience

I also think as lens sort of encounters Facebook like adoption, there’s going to be pockets of sub-communities that care about specific things that lens will essentially be able to incentivize and empower, to sort of take ownership around that, one of them is the cultivator Dao that you guys’ sort of announced, when it came to when it comes to at least content moderation, instilling trust and safety in the ecosystem. I’m curious, are there any other sub communities or users or features that may be more relevant to create like a cultivator Dao experience for management?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, I think like cultivated Daos aims to solve mainly on the content curation aspect. But there’s multiple things that you can actually think about it regarding Daos in terms of servicing content, the content itself, but also the algorithm. So how do you rate different kinds of algorithms? What’s the benefit to it? And how you can actually make it more Dao centric. So how you can actually vote within the Dao, which algorithm is actually beneficial to the users? And those kinds of Daos can be very flexible? So that you don’t need to ask every single user on a application, like which algorithm you want to actually consume. But also, I think like the Dao as it is, is interesting, because you can create various different support systems for the craters itself. customer support, so anything that’s really requires some sort of a human assessment, smaller Daos are very valuable.

The Overlap Between DeFi and Web2 Social

Makes sense. Okay, so I have two final questions for you before we head off. Okay. Number one, you obviously have a deep defi background. I’m curious how you see the two overlapping defi and web two social, what does that what does that world look like?

Stani Kulechov: From more for like a builder’s perspective, I would say that’s, we’ve always had a vision of actually building access to users. So in with the audit protocol, we were able to build access to fair and transparent financial markets that work globally. And with the lens protocol, where you’re creating access to your own social, ownership, your own social identity, and your own social network. And I think like, it’s a broader kind of like idea that Internet brings accessibility by in general, that’s where I basically spend my time growing up. And with web three, were even like reinforcing their accessibility by giving you guarantees of ownership of the properties that that are there exist on the internet. And then the overlap is interesting question, because this boils down to the topic of how you could use the three social graph in a in a different kind of context? And I think that’s where reputation score plays quite big of a role, because you could actually gain access, you can also get accessibility into under collateralized loans as well. And that’s where things can become very powerful. We’re very far away from that idea. So, I don’t expect to see any decent implementations in the next couple of years. But as we start to see, like how valuable on chain verified data is, from the social graph perspective, then we’ll see a lot of interesting features coming up.

How Does Lens Make Money?

The last question that I have for you Stani is, how does lens make money, either on a protocol level, on application level? What’s your vision around that?

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, the protocol itself has already coded into the smart contracts, a way to collect protocol revenue. But what we’re more excited about is to figure out, how the front ends will actually start collecting the fees of the interactions that are happening, or the collections across the protocol, and then deciding what the fee is sharing together with the protocol, and the community. So, end of the day, I think, you could assume a feedback loop where the protocol needs applications for distribution and adoption. And at the same time, the applications need the protocol because of the functionality, but also, because of the network effect that you’re getting when there’s multiple applications plugged into the same social network. And because of these two, kind of like incentives are aligned, you will see that’s both the applications and the protocol. They want to actually see each other to succeed and share that revenue together. So, there’s definitely like the two built in collection modules for collecting content as NFTs, as monetization and also the mirroring. But I will be excited to see additional ways to monetize and across all the applications and I could see in the future even an interesting way where someone might originate the content on Lenser and someone else might collect it on orb and there is app specific fee sharing and that will be super cool.


That is really cool. Look I’m a big fan of building a better world for creators, I think you guys are taking the right steps to do it. I’m building an audience over there, I’m actively on there, so if you’re listening to this and you’re on lens, hit me up at levy chain. Stani, before I let you go, where can we find you on lens? Where can we learn more about Leinster? Show it away.

Stani Kulechov: Yeah, so you can find me on Leinster, so it’s or any of the applications built on top. So, my handle is Stani.lens and feel free to interact with me and also, I assume this video will be available on the Lens protocol for collect. So, remember to hit the collect button. 

Exactly. Stani, thank you so much. We’ll have to do this again soon. But till next time. 

Stani Kulechov: Thank you.

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