Skip to content

Lens Protocol Now Open to All as DeSoc Aims For the Big Time

The blockchain-based social graph entered a permissionless phase, allowing anybody to mint a profile and join the platform. While Web3 social media is developing fast, Web2 competitors remain the industry leaders.

Blockchain-based 'social graph' Lens Protocol has moved to a permissionless phase, which means that anybody can now mint an on-chain profile and join the platform. The project has officially been in a beta testing phase since its launch in 2022 on the Polygon blockchain, and profile creation has only been allowed for invited users.

“In our first few years, we chose to remain in beta while we enhanced security and scalability and nurtured a vibrant developer ecosystem. We took a protocol-first approach. Still… we heard ongoing feedback that made one thing clear: the community wanted to go permissionless.”

Lens Protocol aims to create a decentralized social graph, enabling users to own their content and the links to their community. Central to the protocol is the Profile NFT, which maintains a history of user-generated content and allows users to interact with decentralized applications within the ecosystem. Users can post, comment, repost, and use functions similar to other social media platforms. All content is available on-chain and belongs directly to its creators, who can use it in any social media platform or dApp built on top of the protocol. The data is stored on Polygon’s layer 2 scaling solution.

Lens V2, the first big upgrade of the Lens Protocol introduced last Summer, introduced more interactive and secure social networking. A major change was to make all the social operations profile-based instead of address-based, meaning that now only a Profile NFT can perform most of the actions. Additionally, the update introduced Handles akin to social network usernames, which can be minted separately from profiles and linked or unlinked from various profiles. 

At the time of writing, a handle can be minted for $10 or 8 MATIC (around $8). The transaction can be made either in crypto or by credit card. The login page doesn’t yet provide any info about profile minting, and the support page still suggests joining a waiting list in order to get a profile. Profile registration should open today, according to a social media post.

Key projects built on Lens Protocol include Lenster, a decentralised and permissionless social media app, the Cultivator, which helps visualise the whole network of each individual and Phaver, which allows users to curate the most exciting content and get rewarded for it.

Lens’s main competitor, Farcaster, moved to a permissionless model in October 2023. Another decentralized social media app, it provides a more recognizable interface and a mobile app, Warpcast (which is crucial for any social network, in our opinion). Farcaster has a hybrid architecture that stores identity on-chain and data off-chain. IDs are linked to users' Ethereum addresses and cost $5/year. Functionality is similar to Lens, Twitter or any other social media site: “post, like, comment, repeat.”

According to DappRadar, activity on Lens Protocol has been constantly falling over the last year. However, the project significantly outperforms Farcaster: at the time of writing, the number of unique active wallets (UAW) interacting with the platform within the last 30 days was 12,000, with the total number of transactions at over 322,000. Farcaster's statistics show only 1,800 UAW and 149,400 transactions over the same period.  

While blockchain-based social media has indisputable advantages over centralized platforms (such as actual ownership of the data, lower risk of data breaches, portability, and no censorship), at the moment, they lack a key component: users. To attract the general public and truly compete with the big Web2 players, blockchain-based social media has to simplify its user experience and, sad as it may sound, properly promote itself to reach those outside of the crypto community. After all, registering an X account takes 2 minutes, is free, and doesn’t require a blockchain wallet.

Earlier this month, Vitalik Buterin predicted that both emerging blockchain social media protocols will continue to thrive and engage users over the next year, highlighting his optimism for DeSoc platforms and naming Lens Protocol and Farcaster as crypto alternatives to Facebook and Twitter.