Small frames, big impact

Frames and Farcaster are an innovative blend of small apps and background architecture

Hi all,

Social networks have become a big part of our daily lives. Innovation, however, has been limited in recent years. Maybe that's due to large players being reluctant to major changes which could be bad for their profitable business models.

So how do you challenge the incumbents? By doing something different. That's exactly what Farcaster is trying.

So what’s up?

We'll explain three things:

  • What is Farcaster?

  • What are Frames on Farcaster?

  • Why should businesses and individuals be interested?

Let’s get started! 🤓

If you haven't heard anything about Farcaster, you're not the only one. As social networks go, it's very small. The number of daily active users is currently between 45,000 and 60,000. (In comparison, Facebook had more than 2.1 billion daily active users at the end of last year.)

Compared to less than 3,000 users per day in January, however, growth has been impressive in recent months.

Two things about Farcaster are particularly interesting:

  • The idea and the concept behind it

  • The sudden jump in users in late January

Both of these are connected, but let's start at the beginning.

What is Farcaster?

Varun Srinivasan, one of the Farcaster founders, describes it as a sufficiently decentralized social network. Sounds complicated? Let's look at what that means in practice 

Farcaster is merely a protocol which stores user handles, posts or reactions. Anything you post, re-post or like is accessible there.

How do you access it? By using a client. Everybody can build such a client and use it to access all or some of the information stored at the protocol level. The client then presents the information in a certain format.

Compare that to your emails. You may use Outlook on your computer, but you can also access them through the browser or on your smartphone. The emails are the same on every device. The presentation and the available options, however, are somewhat different.

Technically, social networks can also be separated into protocol and client. The difference is that the protocol is owned by a company which generally does not allow access to outsiders. (Twitter used to be different, but that changed long before Elon Musk bought it and turned it into X.)

Facebook clients, for example, are limited to the web version in your browser and the app for smartphones. No developer outside of Facebook could simply design another client and use it to access the protocol (which is where all the valuable user data is stored). 

When it comes to Farcaster, arguably the most important client is Warpcast. It was built by the Farcaster team itself to get started. Lots of other clients are already available as well. That list is likely to grow with more users.

What are Frames on Farcaster?

No matter which client you're using to access Farcaster, the entire point of a social network is that everybody can post content. On Farcaster, a post is called a cast but otherwise, it's the same like on Facebook or X.

Frames, however, are a new idea. They are small apps inside a cast. You want to buy a concert ticket? You want to book a flight? You want to place a bet on a sports event? All that – and a lot more – is possible with Frames.

Think of Frames as a canvas. Developers can use them to paint any picture. That's what may allow them to develop into an incredibly powerful tool.

By and large, it's not very complicated to build an application today. Many apps even gain a lot of attention – before they quickly fade and are replaced by the next hyped-up app. This essay describes it in more depth.

So why not try to be ahead of the curve? You could just brainstorm and design small apps around your ideas which are meant to be relevant only for a short period. Developers – and companies of all sizes – can take care of that. They merely require a distribution channel.

That's what Farcaster provides. At the same time, the protocol benefits from the activity as that attracts even more users. It's the social network effect, only with an open protocol as the foundation.

Why should businesses and individuals be interested?

Do you remember that Farcaster is a "sufficiently decentralized" social network? That's possible because it's based on blockchain tech.

Think of the protocol as infrastructure. There may be financial incentives to continue working in that area (otherwise nobody would build any type of infrastructure), but don't expect a big IPO similar to Facebook in 2012.

Instead, financial incentives are shared between the protocol, developers and possibly even users. Individual users won't become rich simply through regular casts. Developers, however, may choose to provide incentives to early or loyal users – and that's just one example.

For businesses, Frames have incredible potential, yet we've barely touched the surface. As Farcaster is built on blockchain technology, wallets can be integrated. That enables a company to provide access only to selected users or to simplify online shopping through crypto payments. (It doesn't have to involve a volatile cryptocurrency; you can use a stablecoin which is pegged to the dollar or the euro. 

And the next step for a webshop: Instant Checkout.

It simplifies ordering for customers, but it also enables things like affiliate attribution. When somebody shares a product in a Frame and other users buy it there, there is no question about who deserves an affiliate payment.

For the time being, the checkout process still requires an address to send products. (Even for software downloads, you may need an address to include it on the official invoice.) Pretty soon, however, users will be able to store personal information securely in their wallets and simply provide data such as their address when required.

These examples may seem trivial in a few years. For now, Farcaster is too small to be a viable distribution channel for the vast majority of businesses. For individual users, it's like Twitter in the (very) early days – don't expect content from millions of others.

Starting to cast and experiment early, however, may give companies and individual users a head start when growth at Farcaster – or some similar blockchain-based social network – really takes off.

Was that an interesting read for you? Then feel free to subscribe so that you’ll get our next article straight to your inbox. We’ll really try not to be boring.

That’s the end for today! 😢

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