In Data We Trust
Why one social media company is embracing blockchain
SINCE JEFF TENNERY STARTED THE JOB
search website Moonlighting in 2014, social media sites have been beset by hackers and criticized for compromising their users’ privacy. As a result, people have increasingly lost patience with companies that collect their data and sell it. Moonlighting, which hooks up freelancers with employers, has had to adapt. The company originally charged a 20 percent fee but then offered its services for free, with the option to pay $10 a month for premium services.
Now, Tennery is in the process of migrating his site to a blockchain—a distributed network of computers independent of the company—which would cede control of the site’s data to nearly 700,000 users. Newsweek spoke with Tennery about how this change will affect customers.
NEWSWEEK: What is Moonlighting?
TENNERY: We want companies to be able to hire freelancers the way you’d order an Uber. Our biggest demographic is millennials coming out of school who want to start out as entrepreneurs. We’ve also got moms who want to get back in the workforce with a work-life balance. And baby boomers use it to supplement their income—a demographic that I didn’t see coming. N: Why move the site to a blockchain? T: For two important things: trust and portability. People are giving us very important data, which could include a review, a recommendation, their education, their licensing—all of which builds up trust for people who want to hire you. It made a lot of sense to safeguard people’s proɿles. We are also looking into ways of making the proɿles more authentic. Things like: Did you really go to that college? Are you really a licensed chiropractor?
We also love the idea of each person basically owning their own proɿle and being able to take it with them—meaning, I don’t have to sign up to 52 different gig-economy, freelance marketplaces. My proɿle is mine, and I decide where to use it. All the data and everything associated with what you do will be managed by you and controlled by the blockchain—which is the community of other freelancers using the platform. 6o there won’t be a corporation that sells your data to advertisers.
N: That’s a lot different from how big tech companies currently operate.
T: Facebook and *oogle are in a position where they’re centralized and in control of users’ data. 5ight now, they provide great services, but look at their cash ʀow and their corporate valuations: It’s pretty outrageous, when you consider that we [the users] are really the product they’re selling.
N: One of the advantages of blockchain is that it cuts out the middleman. Isn’t that you?
T: Middlemen don’t just evaporate. We’re the steward of the platform, so we will still need to make money to pay engineers, IT people and so forth. N: How will you do that?
T: We think there’s always going to be a place where people will pay a ɿ[ed fee for services. And if we do sell advertising, we really like the idea of a rewards program to share that revenue back to the users.