What Is Farcaster and Why Is Crypto So Excited About the Twitter Alternative? – Decrypt

In the last two years—particularly, since Elon Musk’s divisive purchase and overhaul of Twitter in late 2022—a number of upstart decentralized social media protocols have attempted to harness the transparent, uncensorable power of blockchain networks to improve the online social experience.

Farcaster is the latest such project to do so. Now, it’s making waves after releasing a key update that has attracted thousands of new users in a matter of days. Here’s why Crypto Twitter is so optimistic about this new potential replacement.

What is Farcaster?

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Founded by Coinbase alums Dan Romero and Varun Srinivasan in 2020, Farcaster is a social media protocol built on Optimism, the Ethereum scaling network. On top of the public and decentralized Farcaster ecosystem, users can create (and have created) a slew of integrated apps that perform various social media functions.

The most popular app built on the Farcaster network is Warpcast, a Twitter-like platform for writing posts (called “casts”), following other users, and liking or sharing (“recasting”) those users’ posts. Though a slew of apps currently live on Farcaster, Warpcast accounts for almost half of all sign ups across the entire protocol, according to on-chain data from Dune.

Most of Farcaster’s most popular accounts are major players in the crypto space: Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum core developer Tim Beiko, and Base creator Jesse Pollak. 

Farcaster shares its main selling points with other decentralized social media protocols: a lack of censorship, control over one’s data, and seamless interoperability of accounts across all apps built on the network. That’s opposed to, for example, the lack of interconnectivity between accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

One element that particularly distinguishes Farcaster from other social media protocols is the network’s emphasis on eliminating bot activity. To sign up, users must pay a $5 sign-up fee, meant to prevent the creation of spam accounts. Further, users can only post a limited number of “casts” on Farcaster apps, which are tied to packages called storage units.

Storage units, which go for $5 a piece, grant a user 5,000 casts, 2,500 reactions, and 2,500 links or photo posts within a one-year period. Users who wish to buy additional storage units to post more can do so via a fairly technical and complicated process. This storage unit structure was designed to prevent Farcaster apps from being inundated with the millions of bot comments and likes that plague traditional social media platforms like Twitter. 

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But far and away, the most popular innovation on Farcaster is called Frames—and it upended the protocol’s trajectory overnight. 

What are Frames?

Launched on January 26, Frames are a new Farcaster feature that allows users to perform a suite of functions, both on-chain and off-chain, within Farcaster apps—without exiting to a third party. 

On Warpcast, for example, users scrolling through a feed of casts can now click on a Frame posted by someone they follow, and perform a variety of functions—including minting NFTs, browsing an art gallery, playing games, subscribing to newsletters, and making online purchases—all while staying in their feed. 

Some popular Frames include “Girl Scout Cookies,” which enables one-click purchases of the popular dessert, “Nethria,” a text-based monster combat game, and “NFT Mint,” a gasless NFT drop. 

Frames is powered by Farcaster’s EdDSA authorization system, which already underlaid the Farcaster ecosystem. According to Farcaster co-founder Dan Romero, that structure eliminates the possibility of wallet drains, spoofing, and other malicious crypto hacks. 

Currently, on-chain functionality for Frames is limited to Ethereum-affiliated networks. As soon as next week, however, Farcaster’s founders have indicated the protocol will expand to support Solana

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Within days of introducing Frames, Farcaster exploded in popularity. The ecosystem, which typically supported around 2,000 daily users in recent months, quickly shot up over 1,300% in activity, to an average of over 28,000 daily users by Monday, according to data from Dune.

The volume of casts and likes on the platform has increased exponentially over the same period, from an average of 100,000 daily engagements just weeks ago, to over 2.3 million on Monday. 

All in all, just north of 125,000 users have signed up for Farcaster so far—a statistic that pales in comparison to mainstream social media platforms, but nonetheless marks a substantial milestone for an on-chain network that has yet to cater to non-tech savvy users.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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