What happens when a Bumble co-creator and senior engineering manager from Facebook start brainstorming? They create the next iteration of social media.

Niche, a Web3 content platform currently open for beta, is a decentralized social app created to redistribute ownership of its networks to its members and content creators. We spoke with co-founders Chris Gulczynski, previously co-creator and CPO of Bumble as well as a co-founder, CCO, and patented co-inventor of “the swipe” feature for Tinder, and Zaven Nahapetyan, previously a senior engineering manager from Facebook, about the potential Niche holds for consumers, creators, and brands as digital engagement continues to evolve in Web3.

Below, they catch up with us about why the future of social media is decentralized, how decentralization can unlock creativity, and how Niche is turning users into owners.

Can you define what a decentralized social media platform or network is?

Zaven: If you think about traditional social media, there is one company that controls everything and has all of the data locked away in their own servers. What a decentralized social media platform does is distribute that data to other people. It democratizes it, meaning people have ownership and portability over their own data and content.

It opens up a lot of opportunities that don't exist with traditional, non-decentralized social media, because—by the nature of decentralization—it makes it really easy to buy, sell, and trade content. By having everything in an accessible protocol, you get this renaissance of creativity where all these other apps are built on top of it and come up with interesting applications with it that perhaps were not thought of before.

What will user interaction on Niche look like?

Chris: We wanted Niche to look like a traditional consumer social product, with the things you're familiar with: scrolling, liking, commenting. But the key is that we're changing the incentive structure around why people are posting content. We hope that's going to change the quality and the content, or the quality of the content that drives discussions and furthers the community, rather than only being used for quick scrolling and entertainment.

I was struck by a concept that I read in a recent press release about the platform: “a notable distinction is that social media has users and Niche has owner-members.” Can you expand on that?

Chris: As a member of Facebook groups or Subreddits, you're just a user. You're there to consume content, which drives ad impressions for those big companies. The key distinction with Niche is that every person inside of a network has a piece of membership in it. It's not your data stored in the Facebook warehouse; it's your data across a decentralized network. Every person participating in the network is adding to the value of the network, not the value of a giant tech company, because all of their content is driving interaction and the enrichment of the community itself.

Zaven: One thing that's really powerful about Niche is that the people in these communities or clubs are owners in the same way that someone that has stock in a company is an owner. As their group becomes more desirable, more exclusive, or gets more media coverage, the value of their ownership stake could go up.

People are incentivized by the actions they take to make the platform better because it also benefits them, rather than on a traditional centralized social media where all the things you do benefit the corporation.

Chris: Our members are owners; they're there to enrich themselves.

Who will benefit most from Niche?

Chris: I think it ups the value for everyone, but more-so the creators: the people that have things to add to the community. Right now, content is being co-opted by large companies for other purposes, rather than giving value back to those people that create the content in the first place. [We believe] it should go to the community and it should go to the creator in a very synergistic way.

What do you anticipate users will like or dislike about Web3 social platforms? What is different, and how is that to their benefit?

Zaven: What I think will be the most dramatic for the end user will be some of the traditional web2 stuff that we have decided to forgo for now. For example, there will not be any friending or following to start, because our whole hypothesis is that if you put people together around the shared interest, purpose, fan club or deep sense of community, having that context leads to more rich interactions and better dynamics within the community.

Chris: It seems more like the way we organize just naturally, right? We all come together around things that build identity and interests.

Coming from executive positions on social platforms, what lessons did you bring to Niche?

Zaven: After seeing how decisions are made at Facebook – it's an incredibly data-driven company, and every single decision is backed by metrics. I think that is a really powerful concept in being able to prioritize things and focus on impact, but can lead to you micro-optimizing, or focusing on short term gains rather than quantum leaps.

With Facebook, to have better ads, you want to have more information collected on users to track them better, and then you want [users] to spend more time on the device so that they watch more ads. All of these things seem pretty benign. But once you add all of them up, that can be problematic. So we’re making sure from the beginning that we have the right incentives in place and we are doing right by our members. We are profiting only when they are profiting, rather than exploiting them.

Chris: In summation, it's responsibility and then intentionality, right? Being at Tinder and Bumble, and seeing such high-use products reinforces that responsibility – these people are giving you a portion of their day and their time and their focus and attention. It should be used to benefit people rather than used to their detriment.

What can brands gain, or how can they benefit from a platform like Niche?

Chris: I think Niche democratizes access and levels the playing field for everyone. It gives them equal platform ownership over what they're posting so they can recognize the full value of the content they're posting and the communities that they're in, too.

What is the future of social media platforms on Web3, and how do you see Niche evolving with that?

Chris: We see social media getting smaller, more intimate. People are moving towards these networks with like-minded shared interests, backgrounds, or identity. I think facilitating that [with] intentionality is setting that course on the right track.

Zaven: Where I would like [to see] social [media] in five years is [a place where] people have options, control and power in their social interactions online the way they do in person. People don't see the stuff they don't want to see; they're able to connect to people that help them with what they enjoy spending time with. Ultimately, they're the ones in power and they can make decisions over all of that. I think decentralization is the path forward, and I think realigning the incentives is the way we get there.

We’re curious: what communities would each of you join on Niche?

Chris: I collect vintage Star Wars toys and preproduction memorabilia from the toy lines from the 70s and 80s. I like sports cars, too – I’m a Porsche guy. I [just] bought my first Porsche.

Zaven: I really like rock climbing, and I've been really into baking, especially making bread. I've been really into exotic plants lately as well, and I've moved into doing semi-hydroponics for all of my plants because it's easier to manage than dirt.

What's really interesting is these sound very niche, but there's thousands upon thousands of people interested in these things. If I had a community of people that can help me not kill my yeast or, you know, not kill my plants, that’s very valuable and that's very powerful. That's what excites me about this app.

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