What is Lens Protocol, and how does it work?


In this guide, we share all you need to know about Lens Protocol, a decentralized social graph that simplifies building Web3 social platforms.

The innovation and, as a result, the booming popularity of social media started at the beginning of the century with the concept of the online social graph. This specific data structure draws a line between social networks’ users and the people, places and things with which they interact. However, time has shown that the major social media platforms have several disadvantages related to centralization. The flagships of the change are likely to be sprouts of current Web3 projects.

What is Lens Protocol?

Lens Protocol is a blockchain-based open-source social graph created to reshape the future of social media concepts in the era of Web3 and decentralization. Unlike contemporary Web2 social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook that use social graphs to develop interconnections among users of social networks solely in a centralized manner, Lens Protocol is designed to be permissionless and composable of empowering content creators to “own their digital roots” and enable people to uncompromisingly own the connections between themselves and the communities. 

As a result, Lens Protocol development led to the emergence of the decentralized social graph that users totally own, giving them back control of their information and links and even providing features to monetize their content.

Lens Protocol was introduced in early 2022 and gained a lot of attention in the blockchain and crypto communities due to the social networking product’s revolutionary nature and the well-known Aave (AAVE) team developing it. As a branch of one of the significant lending platforms in the Ethereum ecosystem, Lens Protocol seeks to address considerable flaws in the current social media environment, which it does quite successfully, gradually gaining a base of dedicated users of a Web3-ready community.

How does Lens Protocol work?

Lens Protocol’s social graph is established through a graph database (GDB). Such databases utilize graph structures that contain individual nodes, edges as connection points between them, places, things and other properties to store data. These graphs show network members and the relationships between them.

However, Lens Protocol’s smart contracts-based social graph differs from the centralized social media graphs since, in the second case, access to the data is available only for the centralized services. Specifically, users, third parties and even projects that might want to integrate with the service do not have access to it. Profiles, content and connections are locked up and kept by the centralized network operator. 

Furthermore, it is known that any centralized service may lightly become a single point of failure when the single server becomes inaccessible. Focusing on building social networking decentralized applications (DApps), Lens Protocol’s open social graph architecture allows any blockchain-based social media platform or DApp to plug into it. 

Moreover, unlike the structure of centralized services, which cannot be customized, the flexible design of Lens Protocol is based on modularity concepts, allowing the latest features and fixes to be implemented and, at the same time, securing social relationships and user-owned content. Lens Protocol is built on top of the Polygon (MATIC) eco-friendly proof-of-stake (PoS) blockchain. It is also compatible with cryptocurrency wallets like MetaMask, Gnosis Safe and Argent, stimulating interoperability across platforms.

What makes Lens Protocol unique?

Two core concepts make the Lens Protocol world unique: nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and modularity. Establishing users’ profiles as NFTs is central to the protocol. With it, Lens Protocol’s decentralized social network members are empowered to create, maintain and own their content and profiles represented through NFTs, while Polygon’s low-fee layer 2 scaling solution stores all the data. 

Such architecture helps to transfer full rights and complete ownership of content into the hands of users. Any content posted, whether a text, a picture, or even a change of avatars is available on-chain. Modularity as a system property refers to innovation, availability and connectivity, meaning that the Lens Protocol’s social graph is open to all creators who are willing and ready to propose and implement new features.

At the same time, community members have the power to consider whether to endorse such users agreeing upon which features to integrate in the most decentralized and open way. Due to these mechanisms and no central actor controlling the information, new social media networks can emerge, maintaining freedom of speech. 

The benefits of Lens Protocol

The protocol’s advantages lie at its very foundation and the Web3 principles. First and foremost, Lens Protocol’s permissionless independent network creates a censorship-resistant environment that can not be interrupted. No third party, including centralized authorities, could remove or censor any content or ban any profile.

With it, Lens Protocol users own their content and data and can utilize them in any social media platform or DApp built on top of the protocol. Furthermore, building a full-fledged Web3 social platform with Lens Protocol is possible. Lens Protocol-based applications benefit from the flourishing ecosystem and profit from the protocol’s modularity and easily customized features.

Last but not least, Lens Protocol’s PoS algorithm makes its blockchain energy-efficient and affordable, especially in comparison with the proof-of-work (PoW) algorithm that consumes large amounts of computational power.

Risks involved with Lens Protocol

Despite the apparent Lens Protocol advantages, the several disadvantages involved should not be ignored. Blockchains are often limited in the amount of on-chain storage capacity, and as a result, not all content and NFTs are stored on this level and require another storage solution.

Lens Protocol publications have a special ContentURI pointing to the content the publications contain, whether it is a text, an image, a video, et cetera. All original files are stored in distributed file storage systems such as IPFS, Arweave or even providers like AWS S3. Thus, any users’ content can be potentially manipulated. 

The storage problem is deeply connected to security issues. If original files are not recorded on a blockchain, they might be lost or damaged. There is also a risk of smart contracts and NFT maintenance as there are several scenarios where hackers can attack decentralized finance (DeFi) networks.

How to use Lens Protocol

Lens Protocol’s design replicates social media functionality in a Web3 context and on the grounds of blockchain technology, smart contracts and NFTs. Thus, the network’s users have profiles; they can post, share and comment on different types of content and follow profiles of friends and opinion leaders.

A Lens Protocol user’s journey begins with the creation of the Profile NFT. Ownership over this NFT allows users to add content, link and communicate with others and gives users control over their data. Specifically, the Profile NFT contains the history of all of the users’ publications, reposts (also known as “mirrors”), comments and other content generated. 

Steps to use Lens protocol

The Profile NFT includes an unique Follow feature that allows users to track other profiles. On the Lens Protocol, it slightly varies from the same option in traditional Web2 social media. Its logic enables different accounts to mint Follow NFTs to record their connections. When Lens Protocol users follow a profile, they are given a Follow NFT, which creators and communities can encode with additional value. 

The Collects feature allows Lens Protocol users to monetize their content. This way, they can set a Collect option when posting a publication to their Profile NFT. As creators fully own their content via the Lens Protocol, they can allow their followers to purchase it under the conditions determined by the original creator.

The key part of the Lens Protocol is modules that refer to smart contracts with code running under specific conditions. Lens Protocol modules allow users to introduce unique, custom functionality on features like Follow, Collect and Reference, including interaction with other users’ content, mirrors and comments. 

The future of Web3 social media

In the twenty-first century, people use social media all the time and everywhere, even though social networks are full of cons in their centralized version. The main issues with the current social media ecosystem are the lack of rights to users’ data as content that users generate does not belong to them, and censorship, meaning the platforms have the right to censor any information or ban any profile that does not comply with their policies.

The benefits of Web3 and blockchain for social media are clear and can have a significant impact by offering new patterns of ownership and customization. They accelerate the revolution currently led by Lens Protocol’s community-owned social graph and similar projects in the social media space. They empower their users and give them control and the ability to decide how they want their social graph to be built and monetized, bringing considerable influence to the communication paradigm.

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