Social Media and Online
Omni: The Social Media Challenger Empowering Users Through Blockchain
The egalitarian dream of social media has severely soured over the past few years, but a new challenger is emerging that is harnessing blockchain to bring power – and revenue – back to users. Lucy Ingham speaks to Omni CEO Manny Hernandez to find out how it plans to change the social media game
There was a period of time slightly over a decade ago when new challengers in the social media space were appearing with remarkable regularity. Each offering a new take on the essential premise of sharing content with others, many of these saw meteoric rises before sharp falls, while the winners cemented themselves to become some of the biggest companies in the world.
However, with slews of scandals, concerns over misinformation and growing understanding about the damage of online hate speech, the public perception of the social media platforms that many of us use on a daily basis is no longer rosy. In many cases, it is positively bleak, and yet with little alternative available, we continue to use these platforms, particularly as – among the pandemic – they have become an invaluable lifeline to the world beyond our homes.
But now a new challenger is emerging that plans to turn the world of social media on its head. Omni not only brings together all the features of the host of different social media platforms under one digital roof, the central premise is flipped: instead of making money through users’ data, Omni lets them share in its profits.
It’s a bold take, but with such dissatisfaction in the established social media players, it does have serious potential to take off, and for Manny Hernandez, CEO and co-founder of Omni, now is the time for a new offering.
“Due to the current political environment and the situation around the world, it's the perfect time to release an app that gives people hope,” he says.
“An app that no matter where people are located they can pull it up make a live stream or a funny post and earn a piece of the rewards that the platform makes, thanks to him using the system collectively with everyone around him.”
Omni: The all-in-one social media platform
Hernandez describes Omni as a “mega app” that brings “all the favourite features of all other social apps under one roof”.
Through two artificial intelligence-driven feeds, one for video and one for news, it includes a host of different functions that are familiar to users.
“Shopify-style stores are supported by Omni, where products can be promoted and sold within the app.”
Stories, Instagram’s frequently copied function, can be created, shared and viewed, while a streaming function similar to that of Facebook is also available. For those longing for Snapchat-like features, there is also the option to share disappearing messages, while calls to other users, individually or in a group, are available à la WeChat.
On the video side, for those who love the short video format of TikTok, Omni provides a similar function, with the option to add music. There is also the ability to upload videos and create channels akin to those on YouTube.
For brands, meanwhile, Shopify-style stores are supported by Omni, where products can be promoted and sold within the app.
And underpinning this vast array of content options is the second focus: “to redefine value and share the rewards of its success with those who really make social networks valuable: the people”.
Omni coin: Using crypto to reward users
Users of Omni will have the opportunity to earn for engagement, however this will paid in Omni coins – cryptocurrency tokens built on a blockchain based on Substrate – a technology already used in a number of other applications.
According to Hernandez, the response to this from the growing community around Omni is “just amazing” – particularly notable given the company is currently at the pre-alpha stage.
“We aim to trigger rewards across the whole ecosystem on multiple actions like shares, follows, content posts, live streams and much more,” he explains.
“I can make a lot of money in the process but there is no need for me to make ridiculous amounts of wealth like other CEOs.”
“There is only one action across the whole ecosystem that does not trigger a reward and that is likes. If you like something it should always be because you truly like it not because you expect a reward for it.”
However, rewards will not simply have a flat structure. Instead they will be awarded randomly so that shares, follows and content posts give a chance of a reward but not a guarantee.
Nevertheless, Hernandez believes this approach will prove successful.
“The reason behind following this approach it's that it's being long overdue for a company to do the right thing,” says Hernandez.
“I can make a lot of money in the process but there is no need for me to make ridiculous amounts of wealth like other CEOs. Sharing a piece of rewards with those who truly make the system value is not only the right thing to do but it's the smartest thing to do.”
Countering privacy concerns
Of course, the other key concern with existing social media platforms is the issue of privacy, something that established platforms, particularly Facebook, have a less-than-ideal track record on.
And here, Omni has designed in privacy solutions from the start – an advantage of launching after privacy became a real concern for users.
“Privacy is always a top priority for every technology corporation that aims to house such big amounts of data,” says Hernandez.
“At Omni we use decentralised environments that allow us to have some of the most impenetrable types of security thanks to the way the whole system is designed from the ground up.
“All person-to-person conversations on the chat functions are end-to-end encrypted to add extra layers of privacy and as if that wasn't enough we also have secret chat functions within that app for people to enjoy as they see fit.”
Achieving the near impossible: Breaking into social media
Of course, launching any social media platform is hugely challenging. Breaking into such a competitive market is a significant feat, and recent history is littered with the stories of companies that tried and failed.
However, Hernandez is confident that Omni, which will see its beta release launch in Q2 2021, can succeed.
“In social media, there has never been true loyalty. While users do love the apps that the Big Tech corporations create, they never had any problem migrating to a new app that they felt had their interest in mind,” he says.
“At Omni we aim for the first time to break the paradigm and build a true loyal user base that will not move to another app just because they flash a new feature.”
“We saw that happening when people migrated from MySpace to Facebook, then from Facebook to Instagram, from Instagram to Snapchat, and from Snapchat back to Instagram when Instagram gave their users the features that made them move to Snapchat in the first place (the stories). Today TikTok took the Marketplace by storm.”
He sees Omni offering genuine appeal because it doesn’t simply offer a shiny new function, but instead provides a fundamentally different approach to the company-user relationship in social media.
“At Omni we aim for the first time to break the paradigm and build a true loyal user base that will not move to another app just because they flash a new feature. We aim to level the playing field by giving users rewards based on the value that they add to the ecosystem,” he says.
“If any other app wants to compete, they will have to come and play in the same level playing field and give their users a reward for the value they bring.”
All images courtesy of Omni
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