Meet ‘Frequency,’ Polkadot’s New Decentralized Social Media Parachain

The team behind Project Liberty’s Decentralized Social Network Protocol unveiled the newly named parachain at Polkadot Decoded.

AccessTimeIconJun 29, 2022 at 9:13 p.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 6:21 p.m. UTC

The Polkadot ecosystem will soon have a parachain dedicated to decentralized social media named “Frequency,” the team behind the protocol said Wednesday at Polkadot Decoded, its annual community event.

Frequency, the first implementation of The Decentralized Social Network Protocol (DSNP), had already selected the Polkadot ecosystem as a home. It is probably best known as the protocol underpinning real estate billionaire Frank McCourt’s Project Liberty.

Project Liberty, which has some $250 million in backing from McCourt, aims to "democratize" social media by developing a publicly accessible database of people’s social connections and challenging the power of social media giants and surveillance capitalism.

Decentralizing social media

With the rise of the metaverse, the idea of decentralized social media – where a user’s content and social graph is not controlled by a single company – has gathered pace. The likes of former Twitter boss Jack Dorsey and decentralized finance platform Aave have been talking up the potential.

But balancing blockchain-based incentive models with the scale needed for social media is a challenge. As it happens, Polkadot offers an elegant solution to the problem, said Harry Evans, chief technology officer at Unfinished Labs, the builder of the Frequency chain. This is because the Polkadot model of a relay chain and connected parachains comes with a fixed price consensus.

Parachains don’t pay a separate fee for each block that gets validated because this is all accounted for in the cost of the parachain lease. Parachain leases have been settled via funds gathered from the Polkadot community and slot auctions, a process Frequency has started, Evans said.

“For applications like social networking, where you are extremely cost sensitive, it gives you this capability to really sort of manage costs and figure out how those are allocated in a way that is much more difficult in other blockchain ecosystems,” Evans said in an interview.

Rather than charging transaction fees to send messages, Frequency uses a token staking model that earns “capacity,” Evans explained, a renewable resource that gets refilled every number of blocks. In terms of addressing scalability, messages can be batched in channels similar to layer two companion systems, while being anchored to the main chain, he added.

Frequency (and DSNP) creator Braxton Woodham said people staking tokens to support the network creates potential for interesting models down the line.

“It allows users to vote with their pocketbooks for different applications that are more effective and better for society,” Woodham said. “It also allows for a level of transparency that avoids some of the toxic outcomes that we’ve seen in the current web.”

Edit note: Thursday, June 30, 2022 3:24 UTC: Second paragraph was corrected to define Frequency as an implementation of DSNP.


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Ian Allison

Ian Allison is an award-winning senior reporter at CoinDesk. He holds ETH.