The Hiveway platform raised more than a few eyebrows today with an announcement by none other than John McAfee, unveiling the startups rebrand from Etherhive to Hiveway. At this time, McAfee’s affiliation with the project remains unclear, but he nevertheless appears to be providing consultation to the team.
On the surface, this doesn’t seem to be anything new. Blockchain-powered social networking startups come and go all the time, with relatively few of them capturing any attention from the market. Few of them are practical and many have faced scaling problems, and most provide an obscure whitepaper detailing how they intend to use a token for purposes related to identity management or promoting content with currency.
The Hiveway Social Network will be the first democratic social network, running fully autonomously. Its users will be able to post and interact with messages, photos and videos. The social platform will be ruled by its users, through an electoral system. Its goal is to offer the alternative everyone expects: a fair social platform. One that does not treat its users as merchandise, take away their rights or sell their attention to third parties for its own benefit.
Additionally, the platform is having a pre-ICO sale of The Way Token , which this startup is probably using to boostrap itself.
This is all fine and good, however, one detail sticks out like a sore thumb: Hiveway is a complete and utter ripoff of Mastodon.
What’s curious about this is that it’s not uncommon to run a custom-branded instance of Mastodon. In fact, doing so is normally encouraged, provided that the Mastodon branding is still prominent somewhere, and credit is given where credit is due.
Unfortunately for Hiveway, they’re actually going out of their way to hide all affiliation with Mastodon, going as far as setting up a separate code repository and overwriting commits to make it appear as if they were originally written there.
Another curious aspect here is that this fork of Mastodon purposefully breaks one of its most important UI features, the ability to create, pin and sort columns. This means that only the right-hand column will show you your notifications, local timelines, profiles, and conversation contexts.
There’s also no mention of federation anywhere, as Hiveway’s intent appears to pretend that it is a completely new bespoke network. However, since the platform uses Mastodon, I had no trouble federating with my Hiveway test account.
When we look at the “ whitepaper ”, which is basically just a deck for marketing purposes. If we separate out all of the pages that detail Mastodon’s basic features, we can see the extra silly things that the project proposes to do. Here are a few excerpts:
The hiveway network will be comprised of interconnected autonomous nodes, filled with different people, interests, languages, and needs. The nodes are run by Hiveway miners that will receive tokens as a reward for sharing their hardware resources. To provide initial capacity requirements, the platform will have a minimum number of 3 nodes deployed in the Amazon cloud.
Such a network already exists, and does not have any need or use for crypto mining. It’s called the fediverse, it already works autonomously, and doesn’t require artificial incentives to operate.
To be able to participate in the network governance or to receive ad compensation, the user must provide sufficient information about himself, his education, skills and work history. To be able to participate in governance, users skills will be audited by the Skills Board, and will receive a score that measures their validity. Users can also receive endorsement from other users with a minimum of 300 followers. Each user can only endorse one other user.
While there’s something to be said about a social reputation system, particularly in a decentralized system, this basically proposes a crowdsourced Klout score and requires users to have a minimum of 300 followers and a LinkedIn-style resume to even be vetted in the first place.
A set of Smart Contracts will serve as constituting laws for the platform, governing marketing ads, the Board elections, Board functionality, voting and platform development and maintenance. The Smart constitution will be made available to all platform users.
Smart contracts are not a silver bullet, and the practicality of using them for community governance in lieu of a basic honor system is highly debatable. In fact, using a rigid system for policy enforcement could theoretically hurt the user experience, as smart contracts are not particularly known for incorporating nuance in their contractual terms.
Special algorithms will check any similarities between accounts,
and will notify the initial account of a possible impersonation,
the first account having the option to cancel the second. To
counteract compromised accounts, all linked nodes will establish
between themselves a behaviour benchmark. Fluctuations in the
behaviour pattern of a node will be investigated by a commision of
linked nodes, allowing them to temporarily suspend the account,
or that node’s rights on the platform.
Impersonation is a common concern on the federated web, but this solution seems to have a distorted idea of the role individual instances play. Part of the purpose of the decentralized web is that it is comprised of individual self-run nodes. The idea that all nodes would bend at the knee to enforce a policy, even one as noble as preventing impersonation, suggests a mentality of having one’s cake and eating it too.
In short, I came away from investigating Hiveway with a fairly bad taste in my mouth. I’m not impressed by much of what this system purports to do; it’s just another permutation of the same ICO + Blockchain + social network scheme I’ve seen arise over the last few years. The only truly unique aspect is that it just rips off of someone else’s hard work.