“Who among you are using Steem social network”, I asked an audience of about 40 college students in one talk I gave. Surprisingly, about 90 percent of them raised their hands.
Steem is a blockchain-based social media platform where anyone gets paid with cryptocurrency for creating and curating relevant content. It uses the storage capacity of members’ hard disk space in a decentralized network, just like how torrents work but in an encrypted and always available way. It gained further popularity when the Cambridge Analytica fiasco with Facebook broke out.
While most blockchain-based platforms are reportedly having problems with scaling and performance, the number of blockchain-based social media entrants is increasing such as Sapien, Sola, and others. They promise to empower and incentivize users in secure and fast way.
Blockchain enables “decentralization”, i.e. providing nearly friction-free cooperation, transaction, and exchange between members of complex networks without central authorities, or what we commonly know as the middleman. This signals the death of the middleman – both digital and physical middlemen.
The digital middleman, like Facebook in social media, is already being disrupted by blockchain-based platforms. As examples, StreamSpace and Flixxo are blockchain-based video distributions platforms that enable users to exchange and view content peer-to-peer, removing the hefty fees charged by Youtube on content.
Another example in the publishing industry is Publica, an online platform that aims to be the first truly decentralized publisher, by using blockchain technology to enable direct transactions between authors and readers, potentially removing Amazon as the digital middleman.
Interestingly, these platforms use cryptocurrencies to attract and incentivize users to create, curate, and consume content.
Blockchain is also starting to disrupt and remove physical middlemen or intermediaries in many industries. In the financial services industry, it’s disrupting and overhauling a legacy global banking system for much faster payments by removing intermediaries. Remittance firms such as SCI and Coins.ph are removing hefty fines of middlemen in remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Likewise, there’s huge potential for blockchain to remove the middleman by streamlining business-to-business (B2B) payments and address persistent long-standing issues in cross-border friction and large payment volumes often exclusive to B2B. Other examples of potential blockchain technology applications include currency exchange and foreign exchange which can potentially remove the physical forex middleman in the future.
In real estate, a US firm called Ubitquity is using blockchain for anyone to manage, track, and transfer land titles and property deeds without the need for intermediaries that only slow down transactions through copious amounts of paperwork, long processes, and high agent fees.
Anything with an agent, agency, or broker title in it can be potentially disrupted and lead to their death in the next five years – from stock brokers to insurance agents, ad agencies, real estate agents, travel agents. Clients and service or content providers can transact and collaborate with each other using blockchain technology, making transactions frictionless, less cost, secure, and efficient.
In a world with less, if not, totally no middleman, the global economy will experience unprecedented growths in productivity. But the middleman now should step up and transform their businesses to embrace new technologies instead of denying its impact.
The author is the President of Hungry Workhorse Consultancy, a digital and culture transformation consultancy; and Co-Founder and Counsellor of Caucus Inc, a data privacy consulting firm. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.