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A conversation between Jess Sloss and Dan Romero, co-founder of Farcaster, on the latest episode of Building At The Edges.
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Dan Romero is the co-founder of Farcaster, the decentralized social network and protocol that many in crypto are turning to as a Twitter alternative. Dan describes Farcaster as sufficiently decentralized, which he positions in contrast to full decentralization on one end, and centralization at the other. A fully decentralized state is ideal for some use cases, but is difficult to engage and will ultimately slow user adoption due to illegible UX. Unsurprisingly, centralized networks are excellent for product execution and performance. Sufficient decentralization aims to weave the performance of a centralized execution team with a decentralized application layer.
So why build anywhere on the decentralized spectrum if people just want something simple to use? For Dan and Farcaster, the answer is to focus on metered growth, building for the early adopters, and compelling developers to utilize the open API to build the feature-rich client ecosystem. This enables the Farcaster team to keep the native client purposely feature-light, and to focus on refining the limited feature set while also stewarding the Farcaster protocol. In practice this looks like manually issuing invite links to new users — something that surely doesn’t scale — and bringing visibility to the emerging clients built on the Farcaster protocol — Dan is very generous with recasts.
Builders of novel products must remain attuned to a user’s or customer’s revealed preference, which is in contrast to building for a stated preference. This distinction refers to the industry classic, Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. Along this line, Dan references Henry Ford’s famous adage, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” While the word’s still out on whether Henry Ford ever said this, the sentiment resonates among builders.
When it comes to monetization, Dan and the Farcaster team are looking ahead to a freemium subscription model for the native Farcaster client. While the Farcaster client will remain free to use, a select feature set will be paywalled. At the protocol level, the Farcaster ID will remain free with a one-time, gas only fee. Dan imagines utilizing verification as the monetization layer, with funds going to support development of the protocol. While it’s “not intellectually honest” to guarantee that something can’t be evil, Dan and the Farcaster team are aspirationally striving for it.
Make something people want to be a part of.