What Is Zion, the Web5 Social Network App?

After Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter, many people are looking for alternatives and wondering what the future of social networks may be. One contender is Zion, which uses Web5 components.
Updated Nov 22, 2022 at 10:27 p.m. UTC
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Chris Sotraidis is a Web3 writer for Spatial Awareness and the co-founder of Immutable Labs, a Web3 consultancy.

After Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and his team laid the foundation for the future of Web5 earlier this year, it was only a matter of time until a project was announced that employs Web5 components.

It wasn't long after Dorsey's comment that Zion, an app for creators, announced it will use a decentralized web platform from payments app Block in its second version. That brings the world closer to a social network built on Bitcoin. But how does this work, and how does it relate to Dorsey’s Bluesky social app?

What is Zion?

Zion describes itself as “an open global scalable decentralized community platform that facilitates direct flow of content and payments between creators and their audiences.” Zion was built with Web5 components and is distinct from Web3 in its core architecture and design.

See Also: What Is Web3?

Web5 is a decentralized peer-to-peer network based around decentralized web nodes and identity, using Bitcoin as the base consensus layer. Zion aims to sever the tie between social-media companies acting as the middleman between content creators and fans.

By replacing the intermediaries with vetted, open-source protocols, Zion aims to create a space for full sovereignty over your digital identity. Zion emphasizes freedom of expression and self-custody of personal information. Because Zion is built within the Web5 framework, the underlying technology enforces privacy, with no possibility of targeted advertising. Privacy and self-custody are enforced by the protocol, not by companies.

The Zion app has two primary functions: payment and community. The communities are forums that look and function like a cross between Twitter and a traditional/Facebook online forum. Zion users can use forums to share content, discuss ideas and get paid for what they contribute. Because Zion wallets operate on the Lightning Network, users and creators can instantly transact across borders.

Bitcoin acts as the base consensus layer for Zion, with Lightning acting as the layer 2 scaling tool. Identity on the centralized web is viewed by the Zion team as broken. Traditionally, identity is issued by external authorities who ultimately decide whose identity will be revoked, and when.

Organizations may inadvertently reveal personal information or change policies, or an individual’s identity may be replicated in the form of identity theft. In the case of Twitter, that problem was recently highlighted with the changes made for how users can receive Twitter’s blue checkmark. A formerly manual process to indicate genuine accounts on the platform was reduced to only requiring the purchase of a Twitter Blue subscription. That change resulted in confusion over identity and a decrease in trust.

Zion uses decentralized identifiers (DIDs), which solve many of the problems that make Web2 experiences from an identity perspective frustrating.

What are decentralized identifiers?

We’re hearing this term more often with regards to Dorsey’s Web5 projects and initiatives within Block (formerly Square), but the idea of decentralized identifiers extends beyond Block’s current projects and road map and widely into Web3. The plan for Zion makes more sense when understood within the context of the W3C-influenced framework and model for the future of the decentralized web.

The W3C was founded in 1994 and operates as the main international standard organization for the web as we know it today.

As defined by WC3, "decentralized Identifiers are a new type of identifier that enables verifiable, decentralized digital identity."

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Zion's tech stack (Zion)

Truly decentralized identification is something that both Web3 and Web5 initiatives aim to achieve, with many Ethereum blockchain-based projects looking to solve different parts of the issue.

Web5 and DID take this a step further by laying down the foundations of the core architecture, data model and the goals for operating within a sufficiently decentralized web. The key difference between Ethereum’s decentralized identity products and Web5 is planning and design. The Web5 components were built and vetted before products were built on top of them.

DIDs have been recognized as a new type of web-based identifier by the W3C, and the open standard is now recommended by the consortium after extensive technical review. That Block has W3C’s support for building Web5 and TbDEX may accelerate adoption of a decentralized web built on Bitcoin.

What are decentralized web nodes?

Zion uses decentralized web nodes (DWNs) for data storage and messaging. It allows participants to securely manage and transact their data with others without relying on a provider or location-specific infrastructure or routing.

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Decentralized Web Nodes (DIF Spec)

Decentralized web nodes remain as a draft specification under development within the Decentralized Identity Foundation, and aren't yet recommended for usage by W3C.

Is Zion similar to Bluesky?

Zion’s mission is indeed similar to Bluesky, an initiative started in 2019 by Dorsey to develop a decentralized social network. Because Bluesky was created as a nonprofit owned by the team developing it, it remains unaffected by Musk’s recent acquisition of Twitter. In October 2022, Bluesky announced it is building AT Protocol, a new foundation that also incorporates the usage of DIDs as stable IDs. Bluesky has the same goal as Zion for portable accounts, privacy and decentralization.

What’s next for Zion?

The wait list for Zion is available on its site, and the app is available to download for both iOS and Android. The product is being rolled out in stages, and there’s no news yet about when it will be available for those who sign up.

This article was originally published on Nov 22, 2022 at 6:50 p.m. UTC

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Chris Sotraidis is a Web3 writer for Spatial Awareness and the co-founder of Immutable Labs, a Web3 consultancy.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Chris Sotraidis is a Web3 writer for Spatial Awareness and the co-founder of Immutable Labs, a Web3 consultancy.


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