Voice: $300m to build Twitter for EOS, with a Real Names policy and KYC to get an account

Voice.com is Block.One’s long-awaited EOS-based social network — and it’s finally launched!

If you signed up for the Voice announcements mailing list last year, you can now create an account and post on Voice. From August, you’ll be able to invite friends to Voice. [Voice]

The crypto crowd will be delighted to hear that Voice requires you to give them full Know-Your Customer (KYC) documentation — just to post to their social media system. And your profile will use the name on your paperwork — not the name everyone knows you or your company by. [Voice]



Yes, but what does the blockchain bit do?

Voice was going to be on EOS — but, according to CEO Salah Zalatimo: [The Block]

Voice will be launched on a special purpose blockchain. Iterating and optimizing a product like Voice is not feasible on a public blockchain due to the inability to rapidly innovate.

Tokens are used to promote posts and user profiles in various ways. The Voice blockchain carries hashes of posts, and when someone hits “like” on a posts. [Voice]

This is otherwise known as your system’s “database.” But Voice’s back-end data store is a fork of the EOS code, so … blockchain!

How to spray ICO cash across the landscape

I wrote up EOS’s 2017 ICO in the book, as one of the most egregious ICOs I’d seen up till then. The terms of the ICO literally said that you were buying tokens with no use that may be of no value — and bubble-economy suckers still lined up to throw $4 billion in ether at them.

There was some doubt as to whether the $4 billion in the EOS ICO was all fresh money from suckers — or if Block.One used incoming ether to buy EOS themselves, to pump up the sales figures. [Finder, 2018]

Block.One paid $30 million for the voice.com domain name in 2019 — the biggest cash sale of a domain name up to that time. Even sex.com went for only $13 million. [Domain Name Wire, 2019; DN Journal]

Block.One then threw another $150 million in to finish Voice. All up, Block.One has spent $300 million on Voice — a mind-boggling amount of money to just spaff up against the wall. I’d love to see a breakdown of what they actually spent it on. I wonder how much of the ICO takings went into salaries, and for who.

All aboard Google Minus! Papers, please

Voice has decided a Real Names policy will be just the thing to make Voice zing. Zalatimo told The Block:

By designing a platform where every user has gone through Know Your Customer (KYC) verification and real identities are attached to the original content being shared, we are empowering users to hold each other accountable.

There’s also the obvious possibility of selling crypto to the KYCed users — though Voice hasn’t announced any such plans as yet.

With the real names policy, Voice might repeat the stratospheric success of Google Plus!

Remember Google Plus? It was Google’s attempt to take on Facebook in 2011. People really wanted Facebook, but not run by Facebook. Google seeded invite codes amongst its employees, and they passed invites to their techie friends.

Then the Real Names policy was switched on, and it was a disaster. Google employees were told that a name like “Ping” couldn’t be real, and they were kicked off their own company’s service. Users were told names like “Elaine Yellow Horse” or “Stilgherrian” couldn’t be real. Hong Kong users with mixed-script names were kicked off.

Some users even reported being cut off from their GMail. Google Plus’s core audience of techies started warning their non-techie friends that Google Plus was actively dangerous to sign up to, and not to go near it.

After attempts to force Google Plus uptake by imposing it onto YouTube in 2013, the service finally rescinded the real names policy in 2014. But Google Plus never recovered, and Google shut the service to the public in 2019.

A real names policy is one of those perennial ideas people keep thinking will fix everything — but there’s zero evidence for this, and some evidence against it:

  • In 2007, South Korea required commenters on sites with over 100,000 users to supply their Resident Registration Number (national identity number), and this reduced malicious comments by … 0.9%. They scrapped this requirement in 2011. [Chosun Ilbo, 2011]
  • In the UK in 2007, a study of students showed worse behaviour with real names, not better. “There was four times as much flaming when they knew each other than when they didn’t.” [Guardian, 2007]
  • In a now-unavailable post to Google+ by Yonatan Zunger, one of the people whose problem Google+ was, he said: “While there was an expectation that people would behave better when their activity was tied to their own identity, as that identity is presumably a highly valuable and non-renewable resource to them, the evidence weighed against it: people seem quite willing to be jerks under their own identities.”

Voice has launched with a key policy that’s completely lacking in evidence — presumably because they just felt like it’d work out fine.

And that’s before we get to Voice’s core audience being the crypto crowd — who will have some reluctance to provide full KYC dox, just to join EOS Twitter. Some are already calling this a dealbreaker. [Voice]

Voice has fallen for the arrogant techie tendency to prax it out from first principles — and never check how anything ever worked out before. Who needs forethought when you have money?

If anyone ever tries to tell you that a Real Names policy is a good idea — ask them for their numbers on this claim.

The future of Voice

I was on Google Plus from start to finish, and there were always some people there. Even if it felt a bit like a small party in an abandoned office building, the desert wind howling outside.

Most social networks seem to get some crowd. Voice is likely to attract a small crowd of people who enjoy each other’s company — seeded by the hardest core of EOS users. Possibly less users than Dan Larimer’s previous social experiment, the Steem blog network, attracted — Steem didn’t make you dox yourself to write things.

It’s unclear whether Voice has to make back the stupendous pile of cash they set on fire building this thing — or if money is just dross, given a big enough ICO.

Also — that KYC database? That’ll be quite a prize for whatever hacker breaks into this system that was designed from first principles, based only on their own ineffable brilliance, and nothing in the outside world. Can’t wait!

Update, August 2020: Robrigo from Voice kindly gave me an early-access account code to try — Voice now only requires a selfie photo. Trying to use it didn’t work very well, but you can read about it here.

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2 Comments on “Voice: $300m to build Twitter for EOS, with a Real Names policy and KYC to get an account”

  1. What happens when a Hong Kong blogger decides to use Voice and posts something that mainland China wants taken down as well as the real identity of the blogger? TikTok claims they will not comply with requests for user data from mainland China regarding Hong Kong and also appointed an American CEO but was still banned by India (its largest market) and perhaps soon in the USA as well.

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