45 million-strong crypto app targets Twitter with new social media platform

Quick Take

  • Pi Network is launching a social media platform called Fireside Forum.
  • The app will let users spend tokens to upvote and downvote content.

Bots, bullying and bum information. Billions of people use social media despite sometimes feeling dispirited by the experience; toxicity often in full display.

One crypto startup with tens of millions of smartphone users mining their native token is aspiring to change that reality by launching a new social media app which incentivizes positive behavior while disincentivizing what's deemed negative by users.

Created by Pi Network and dubbed Fireside Forum, the initially text-based social platform is enlisting a model where users can spend tokens rewarding and elevating posts they like or invest them in penalizing the posts they don't. The company's aim is the Pi Network model will help suppress content considered spam, misleading, toxic or all of the above.

“Web3 should solve some of the drawbacks or flaws of web2 social media, namely the overload of information, misinformation, trolling and internet violence,” said Pi Network co-founder Chengdiao Fan, who has a Stanford PhD in social computing.  “Using powerful tools that are available in web3 — blockchain and cryptocurrency — and using them as a mechanism to create disincentives and incentives, and a balance between the two, will in a sense automatically moderate behavior."

Just as users can tout content produced by their online counterparts, people can also earn rewards when their posts are popular.

Since starting Pi Network roughly five years ago in 2018, its founders said they have been dreaming of building a social media platform devoid of the many elements that often spoil users' experience on traditional networks like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

“It’s been proven that when people add even a small economic incentive or disincentive into their actions then all of a sudden they become a lot more rational,” said Pi Network co-founder Nicolas Kokkalis, also a Stanford PhD.

Pi Network has so far expanded its ecosystem by signing up 45 million “engaged” users who have downloaded its app in order to mine its Layer 1 token. The company’s founders said they define “engaged” users as people who have downloaded their app, signed in and then mined tokens.

The company bills itself as a “utilities-based ecosystem for third-party apps on a mobile web platform,” which "offers a mobile-first mining approach, with low financial cost.” Currently, Pi Network's token does not trade on an outside exchange and is only useful within the company’s ecosystem.


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“We are currently in a phase we call the ‘enclosed mainnet,’" said Kokkalis. "During this phase we are migrating people from the mobile app to the blockchain while at the same time they are performing a decentralized KYC (know your customer) application that we have built."

The company uses a KYC process geared in large part to making sure its users are actual people; a step implemented in order to weed out the bot-run fake accounts that often frustrate users on Twitter.

Twitter alternatives

Pi Network is not the only blockchain-enabled social media app attempting to take on the establishment. Lens Protocol lets users mint their profile as an NFT while maintaining ownership of their “connections, posts and data.” Users are also able to seamlessly move from one platform to the next while taking their profile and data with them, according to the company.

Mastodon, while not a blockchain-based app, has marketed itself as both a "decentralized" social media platform and direct competitor to Twitter. The platform had more than 10 million registered users as of March, according to Statista.

Fan called Twitter’s recent decision to charge some users subscription fees “validation” traditional internet companies are beginning to realize what she and her co-founder Kokkalis said they have known for a long time: charging users can help to ensure authenticity.

Pi Network has three million users who, after passing the company’s KYC and migrating to the blockchain, in part by using a digital wallet, will initially be able to sign up for Fireside Forum, the founders said.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Author

RT Watson is a senior reporter at The Block who covers a wide array of topics including U.S.-based companies, blockchain gaming and NFTs. Formerly covered entertainment at The Wall Street Journal, where he wrote about Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros. and the creator economy while focusing primarily on technological disruption across media. Previous to that he covered corporate, economic and political news in Brazil while at Bloomberg. RT has interviewed a diverse cast of characters including CEOs, media moguls, top influencers, politicians, blue-collar workers, drug traffickers and convicted criminals. Holds a master's degree in Digital Sociology.


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