Betting on Farcaster
Thoughts on Farcaster and why I'm betting on it.
12th February 2024
Farcaster describes itself as a sufficiently decentralized social network built on Ethereum. Instead of trying to move the entire social stack onchain, Farcaster only requires three decentralized features:
- The ability to claim a unique username
- The ability to post messages under that name
- The ability to read messages from any valid name
There is a really nice blog post from Varun that goes into detail about this idea of sufficient decentralization that Farcaster adopts for the curious reader.
I remember checking out Farcaster in (relatively) early days. I got an invite to the network in January 2023.
At the time, I signed up to Farcaster since LearnWeb3's v2 was launching soon, and I was experimenting with various decentralized social protocols to see where we could talk about it.
To be honest, after initially signing up, I didn't stick around Farcaster much at that time. The launch also got delayed and ended up happening in June 2023, by then I had mostly forgotten about Farcaster.
It wasn't until someone asked me about it around August/September 2023 that I checked out Farcaster again. The first thing I came across was Purple - a Nounish DAO focused on improving the Farcaster experience. This was interesting, so I bid and got a Purple NFT.
This led to a bot notifying people on the Purple channel on FC about my win, and I was greeted with welcome messages from a variety of Purple members. This was very cool. I'm not much of a social media person - I wasn't even on Twitter until ~2020 - and even then I'd mostly just lurk. Getting welcome messages from real people on a brand new social network I just signed up for was an experience I hadn't had before - and I liked the engagement.
I started looking into it more, particularly the people, and there were a lot of builder types.
Historically I've mentioned many times to people who know me that the reason I even use Twitter is because it's the only place I've found builders and converted random online strangers into friends. I can't even remember the last time I actually used Instagram, for example.
Farcaster's early builder vibe was interesting, and this led me to being a bit more of an active lurker in the ecosystem. I was going through the Purple DAO proposals, and commenting on a few people's posts.
The more time I spent there, the more I realized that Dan and Varun had amazingly curated a phenomenal community on there. I'm a self-proclaimed tech nerd, and as far as online social media goes, I am the type of guy who actually just browses the GitHub feed to find interesting people and interesting projects. Scrolling through Farcaster felt the same way. It was full of founders, engineers, and other nerds like I, and being a really small community at the time it felt like you could really get to know everybody (at least the active ones) in a short period of time.
There was also a bit of a stroke of luck. Parallel to all of this, I was spending my free time learning a bit of Rust at the time and was looking for a project to build. Given how intersting Farcaster seemed, I decided it'd be a good idea to try and build a Farcaster Hub in Rust. That project ended up becoming Teleport, which is still a work-in-progress at the time of writing this. Through Teleport, I ended up having a lot of interactions with other devs.
Long story short, found cool devs, stuck around, found more cool devs - loved it.
This may not be the normal experience, but for me, it worked.
There were a few key people I met early on on Farcaster which made me believe in the long-term future even more.
- Dan and Varun, firstly, were amazing. All my interactions with them (mostly Teleport stuff) always were really nice, and that's always a good signal.
- Folks like Christopher Wallace and Stephen Cill who were both also building some really cool open-source Farcaster stuff, and conversations with them were promising
- woj, someone I knew from back in the day when he was building Mazury, who was now working on Supercast - a client for FC - this was high signal
- A few other builders like July, ccarella, chandresh, Mac Budkowski who I spoke to - some of whom I'd been following before Farcaster
- Manan and Rish from the Neynar team who generously set up a free hub for me so I could test Teleport
There's more I'm definitely missing right now, but all this to say that I was having a good time.
The vibe was friendly, helpful, and honest. Many other social networks I have used or still use lack in some of those properties.
There was no engagement bait, no spam, no phishers. Also, no token ever was an amazingly high value signal (IYKYK)
From that point on, I was invested in Farcaster.
Farcaster was replacing both Twitter and Reddit for me
- Posting random shit? FC
- Seeking help with Rust? FC /rust channel
- Talking about crypto? FC
- Ranting about
<insert JS framework>? FC /devs channel
Slowly but surely my Warpcast usage was going up.
From world-class AMAs on Farcaster, Linda setting up Bountycaster, some top-tier people I follow on other places becoming active on Farcaster, the wowow memes, the $DEGEN saga - the signals don't stop!
The Warpcast team also was shipping nonstop. Minting and tipping with Warps, direct casts, sign in w/ Farcaster - it was a builder's dream.
A lot changed on a day that has become known as Frame Friday. On 26th January 2024, Farcaster launched Frames.
Frames were an extension to the OpenGraph standard for web metadata which allowed for building interactive mini-apps that would be rendered and be usable directly inside Warpcast (and any other FC clients).
That Friday was a somewhat rough day for me, personally, but the second I saw Frames I knew something had to be done.
I spent a few hours that day creating a LearnWeb3 Faucet Frame that went semi-viral.
Even apart from that, the builder energy of that day was unmatched. Every hour a hundred new frames were launching, Farcaster and Frames were trending on Twitter, new people were joining the network left, right, and center. There were three IRL Frame hackathons within 48 hours around the world. This was crazy!
Frames proved undoubtedly the value of having a builder-first community in this space. Farcaster was far from being the only decentralized social network - there are a ton. But, the strategy of going builder-first was paying off. All the builders were building, and the users were flowing right in.
This excited something in all of us I think. Founders and builders love seeing their products, and niche products they care about, succeed. It was that.
In the last couple of weeks, Farcaster has grown exponentially. With hundreds of frames, tens of thousands of new users (and most of them paid for an account, btw), and crazy new experiments being shipped - it has been an extremely fun time.
Betting on FC
If you don't understand why decentralized social in general is something we should care about, I won't be explaining that here - there's a bunch of other posts you can find on that.
But, assuming you care about decentralized social, I think Farcaster has massive potential. Of course the pressure is on now, and arguably it's going to be even harder for Farcaster to stand out going forward since things are easier with a smaller community, but in my personal experience I have belief in the Merkle Manufactory team.
Long-term I believe that decentralized social will be one of the first billion user consumer crypto app, and having tried at least 5 different ones, none of them kept me engaged more than 2 days at a time except Farcaster.
I might be wrong. I have been wrong before. Maybe Farcaster remains a small niche corner of the internet. But, I also feel strongly that that is not how it is going to play out.
Personally, I only foresee my investment in Farcaster (both as a user and builder) increasing over time. Even at LearnWeb3 we have now committed to increasing our level of integration with Farcaster and designing unique FC-only experiences throughout the platform.
We live in the best timeline. The future is going to be awesome, and I'm highly optimistic!