#061: An Artist & Art Lover's Guide to Farcaster

An overview of the emerging decentralized social network and tips to start navigating it.

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🤗 This week's edition of Creator Royalties is courtesy of our co-founder, Debbie, where she provides an introductory overview to Farcaster - a decentralized social protocol - for artists and art lovers who are curious about blockchain technology and how it could shape the future of social networks and community building.

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An Artist & Art Lover’s Guide to Farcaster

Even though I’ve had a Farcaster account for nearly 2 years, I’ve only really been spending more time in the Farcaster community over the past couple of months, which recently came together in-person at the 2nd ever FarCon in Venice Beach, California.

How FarCon has grown from its first year to its second

I’ve had many people ask me what Farcaster is (sometimes affectionately known as the ‘purple app’ due to its purple branding!), whether it’s worth their while, and how to get involved… so without further ado, here’s an introductory guide to all things Farcaster, especially if you’re like us - here for the art.

🚨 Disclaimer: The views in this article are Debbie’s own and do not constitute financial advice from either herself or HUG.

WTF is Farcaster?

Farcaster is a decentralized social network that was created to offer a better alternative to centralized social media platforms like X (formerly known as Twitter).

What exactly does “decentralized” mean? Leveraging blockchain technology, what this means is that most of your valuable user data such as your username, followers, and messages belong to you, and hence cannot be taken away from you. At a simple level, this means that unlike more commonly-used centralized platforms that we are all accustomed to such as Instagram or X, your username cannot be changed or removed on your behalf nor can your messages be censored.

Taking it a step further, what this also means is that Farcaster is effectively a protocol, which many different companies or applications can build on. A useful way to think about this is to liken Farcaster to email, i.e. [email protected], which can be accessed via your choice of email client, e.g. Gmail, or your Mail app in iOS, or other apps like Superhuman.

Warpcast, the most widely used client for Farcaster

To fully demonstrate what Farcaster can do, the company behind it has also built a client of its own called Warpcast, which can be downloaded from the App Store or Play Store. While it is the default client for most Farcaster users, there are also other clients available or in the works, such as Supercast which has additional features like scheduling posts (otherwise referred to as casts) or newly announced Kiosk.

Should I bother with Farcaster?

When Farcaster first came out, it was known simply as a “decentralized Twitter”. Perhaps worth noting is that it’s not the only decentralized social protocol around - there are others like Bluesky which was born as an initiative from Twitter before getting spun out, Lens Protocol, Mastodon, and others. While Farcaster has seen incredible momentum over the past few months, it is likely too early to tell if they will emerge as winners - their daily active users (DAU) while having 10x this year, is still 0.1% that of X’s.

Farcaster has gone from less than 10,000 daily active users to nearly 100,000 since the start of this year

While I’m less familiar with other protocols and am hence unable to comment on them specifically, I am able to share my personal experience about Farcaster and why I have found it worth at least spending some time on.

First off - social media, no matter the platform, requires time and effort. Amongst us, there are always going to be those who gravitate towards TikTok over Instagram, to LinkedIn over X, or to Reddit over anything else. Ultimately, the reason why we choose one platform over another usually depends on a) our individual goals and objectives, and b) which medium we feel most comfortable expressing ourselves. For example, I personally don’t enjoy both consuming or creating video content too much, which is why I hardly use platforms like TikTok or YouTube.

Similarly, users interested in Farcaster are typically already avid X users, and prefer communicating through short-form messages under 280 characters, and supplementing them with the occasional image or video. If you had worked hard to build a following on X, you may wonder why you should spend time starting from scratch and trying to rebuild an audience on a different platform... which is the fundamental challenge of all existing social media platforms, in that the audience you have spent time building ultimately do not belong to you.

It is far too early to tell if Farcaster will indeed become the most widely adopted decentralized social network. If it does however, decentralization means that the time you invest here in terms of building your audience and social connections (i.e. your social graph) is completely transferable and interoperable to other apps building on top of it. In fact, there are already TikTok (Drakula) and Instagram (Jam) equivalents currently being built on the Farcaster protocol.

On the other hand, if you are an artist trying to market your art and find collectors over social media, being early could very well pay off. While it may seem like you have less people to engage with compared to X, this is also an opportunity to stand out from the crowd especially as X’s algorithm has got more unpredictable over time.

Ultimately, if you enjoy being an early adopter, are keen to learn and experiment with other like-minded folks who are curious about new technology, it is likely that you will feel right at home at Farcaster… even though it will take some time and getting used to.

💡 Want to sign up for Farcaster? It costs $7 per year, which goes towards storage of your data. You can also use my invite link to get free Warps, which are another form of in-app currency and can be used on things like starting and joining channels (see following sections!).

Earning tips on Farcaster

Many artists have been singing the praises of Farcaster because token communities building on the protocol have allowed creators to earn tips (essentially reward points) through the content that they share. The difference between earning such rewards as points offchain and tokens onchain, is that in the latter you can easily sell your tokens for cash, meaning that they carry actual monetary value.

Tipping users based on activity and engagement on Farcaster is something that was pioneered at the start of this year by Degen, a token created by Jacek to allow Farcaster users to reward each other for posting quality content. Similar concepts have since been adopted by both newly-created token communities like Higher and established companies like onchain art marketplace SuperRare, and creator-centric protocol and marketplace Zora.

Again, while the value of each community’s token can fluctuate wildly (one $DEGEN token is currently worth 2 cents but at one point was worth close to 6 cents) and the model is only a few months old and hence could undergo several iterations to be sustainable, the idea of creators earning monetary payouts for the content they share is an exciting one. This is especially when you compare it to traditional social media platforms like Instagram, where creators not only post content for free, but instead have that content monetized by the platforms they are sharing it to.

Leveraging channels and frames on Farcaster

Aside from tipping, there are a couple of innovations that really make Farcaster stand out to me.

Channels: subcommunities

The first is channels, which are essentially like Subreddits (i.e. subcommunities). While a Warpcast client-only implementation at the moment, these will soon be implemented at the protocol level at Farcaster, i.e. third-party applications can build on top of the content being created in channels.

Similar to how you can contribute to a variety of different Subreddits in Reddit, anywhere from your favorite reality TV show to sports to news, channels allow you to post to different subcommunities based on your interests. For artists, this is not only an incredible way to get more eyes on your work, it is also a great way for you to connect with other people over similar interests or even specific mediums.

Here is a comprehensive list of art-related channels on Warpcast, and you will find different channels for say, generative art, illustrations, AI art, and more. Channels are not just for interests - some creators have even gone on to create personal channels of their own as a way to share updates with their fans. Needless to say, HUG has a channel of its own where I run daily themed art contests with prize pools paid out in DEGEN tokens.

Yesterday’s yellow art contest

Frames: mini apps

Frames are mini applications within Farcaster that users can interact with without ever leaving it! People have built frames to allow users to mint or purchase an NFT, read their newsletter, buy merchandise, and more with the click of a few buttons and most importantly without leaving Farcaster.

Here are a couple of my favorite art-related frames:

  • Purchasing an NFT with the click of a button through Zora

  • Browse an onchain art gallery with Gallery

Frames allow you to browse through a user’s onchain art gallery within Farcaster

  • Read an entire newsletter within a Frame thanks to Paragraph

With frames just being a few months old, new applications are being built and launched every day - who knows what will be possible tomorrow?

The future of HUG on Farcaster

While HUG’s presence on Farcaster is currently limited to our single /thehugxyz channel, its decentralized nature allows us to do lots more! Indeed, some ideas we have include:

  • Allowing users to connect their Farcaster account and hence port over their social graph (i.e. all their followers) to HUG

  • Once decentralized, bringing channels and hence art medium-specific content onto HUG so you can find the right home and community for your art within our platform

  • Allowing other users to shop from your Artist Storefront directly through a frame

  • Allowing users to share their Artist Profile and Portfolio as a frame, so users can browse through their work without leaving Farcaster

  • Allowing users to view all information about a particular Open Call within a frame, so they can learn more about the opportunity before applying to it

And lots more!

We don’t currently have a specific timeline for any of these, but needless to say, we remain excited about the possibilities of decentralized social and how we can be a part of this rapidly evolving movement.

Closing thoughts

With Farcaster at around 100,000 DAUs versus other social media platforms like X and Instagram at hundreds of millions, we are at the early innings of what is possible for decentralized social. Additionally, depending on where you are in your artistic career or journey, it may not be worth neglecting the audiences you have built elsewhere only to have to feel like you’re speaking into a void… at least at the very beginning.

Nonetheless, if you are willing to take a bet on the future, want to play a part in witnessing it unfold, and have some time to spare… give Farcaster a go! There’s lots more that I haven’t had the chance to dive into, so feel free to reply to this email if you have further questions. I’ll do my best to respond to all 💜

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