This is a short introduction to Zappl.com, the steem blockchain, and a social media cryptocurrency, that I am posting to Twitter.
Zappl, steem, steemit, blockchain... What?
Zappl is a Twitter alternative where you get paid for tweeting (called zapping, on Zappl). Yes, you read that right. You get paid to post! To explain this, it's necessary to start at the bottom and work our way up.
The steem blockchain
This is the basis of the whole system. The Steem blockchain is a special type of public database that defies censorship and provides inherent trust. It does this by being distributed and duplicated cryptographically across a significant number of nodes in a peer to peer network, with incentives for anyone to become a node in the network. In non-technical speak, it's a large, public and transparent database that anyone can run a copy of and be rewarded for. The steem blockchain is just one of numerous other blockchains out there, just the same as there are numerous regular databases on the internet.
What makes the steem blockchain special
Other blockchain based systems that you might have heard of are Bitcoin and Ethereum. There are many others out there, and they all have their area of focus. A number of governments and major corporations (IBM for instance) are looking to blockchain technology to enable secure and trustworthy contract systems. The steem blockchain is unique in that it has been created specifically to reward content creators, in a way that other databases of user generated content don't (such as Facebook and Twitter, for example).
How are content creators rewarded?
When people perform social media like activities on the steem blockchain, like posting, voting, sharing etc they are rewarded with a steem blockchain specific token called STEEM. STEEM is a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and others.
Where does STEEM get its value from?
A cryptocurrency gets it value from the same place that ordinary currency gets it - from widespread trust. We don't value 'real' dollars because they contain any inherent value (like a commodity does; gold, for example). We value them because we trust that others will accept that currency for goods and services. And while 'real' dollars are backed by the state and/or a reserve bank, it's not like you can go to the government or reserve bank and get something of tangible value, like gold, in exchange for your bits of paper/plastic. All you'll get from them in exchange is more of the same type of currency. So in that regard, a cryptocurrency is no different from 'real' money.
The problem in this sphere is that most of the public don't really understand what money actually is and how it is created. So there is a lot of misconception about both 'real' money and cryptocurrencies. You can see this play out everyday regarding Bitcoin. People have been predicting that Bitcoin will crash and burn since day one, because they percieve that it isn't backed by any real value. The reason why it hasn't crashed (it has in fact increased massively in value) is that, like 'real' money, it doesn't need anything of value backing it. Its value comes from trust.
STEEM is no different in this regard. Where STEEM and the steem blockchain are unique is in what the currency can be exchanged for. With 'real' money, you usually exchange it for goods, and less so, services. The figure that is used to summarise economic health - GDP - records monetary exchanges for goods and services. But it's important to realise that there's no inherent reason why what GDP measures is the best summary of economic (which is ultimately social) health. We could just as easily measure other interactions. The steem blockchain measures social interactions, the like we have all seen and taken part in on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.
The steem blockchain rewards good social media content with the cryptocurrency STEEM. "Good" is judged by the community, so there is an authority to that valuation, and hence an authority to the value of STEEM. This is where STEEM gets its value from. While ever there are people wanting to consume quality social media (which is all of you reading this), STEEM will have value. And STEEM can be exchanged for 'real' money.
Where the steem blockchain is the database, sites like Zappl.com, steemit.com, chainbb.com, busy.org etc, are where the social interactions take place. The first site to utilise the steem blockchain was steemit.com, which is a Reddit/Medium like blogging platform that was created by the same people who created the steem blockchain. Since its creation, new sites have been created by private individuals to give alternative ways to interact on the blockchain. Chainbb adopts a traditional forum structure. Busy.org is similar to Facebook. And Zappl.com is similar to Twitter. While all data from all platforms exists publicly on the blockchain, in the case of Zappl, it only shows data (i.e. 'zaps') created with Zappl.
And like all other social interactions on the steem blockchain, you get paid to zap and upvote other people's zaps. Basically, continue to do what you do on Twitter, but get paid for it! What's not to like about that?
These new apps built on top of distributed blockchains are just the tip of the iceberg of what we will see in the coming years. They offer transparency (it's almost impossible for troll farms to operate undetected on the blockchain), and cryptographic trust. And being offered a reward for good content means that trolling and harassment are virtually non-existent in the steem environment.
This is just a brief summary of the fascinating topic that is blockchains and cryptocurrency. If you want to look into the steem/steemit interaction more, the FAQ is a good place to start.
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you on Zappl sometime! :)