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Weibo’s Instagram competitor offers decentralized token rewards

water droplets

On Monday, China-based Sina, the owner of social media giant Weibo, released Oasis, a new photo sharing app which resembles Instagram. Yesterday it was reported by multiple Chinese media outlets that Oasis offers “decentralized model” digital assets, known as ‘water droplets’, used to earn rewards and cast votes.  

Though the app is not even officially launched, it reached the top of Apple’s social charts in China, beating hugely popular apps QQ and WeChat. The app’s Weibo page already has 8 million followers days after its release, according to Caixin. With Instagram blocked in the country, there is undoubtedly a gap in the market Sina intends to fill. However, Oasis is currently in invite-only beta with a full release date yet to be announced. 

The interest in Oasis has only increased with the news that digital assets, which may be blockchain-based, will be used in the app. The more active a user is, the more of these water droplets they will earn. If they are not collected within three days, however, they will ‘evaporate’. So, first impressions imply that the assets are an incentive scheme for engagement.

The droplets are used for voting, certain membership privileges, and as rewards from users to their favorite bloggers. The latter point is particularly close to typical blockchain applications, as it shows that the droplets will be tradeable. Similarly, many industries use cryptocurrency as a way to tip content creators. One example is the Basic Attention Token (BAT).

Furthermore, the number of droplets on Oasis will supposedly be limited, with Sina ‘buying back’ the tokens occasionally to stabilize its value. These are strategies also used to manage cryptocurrencies. However, there does not appear to be a way to trade droplets for real money. While “decentralized” has been used to describe the assets, there is no official confirmation that they will be blockchain-based.

In a strange turn of events, Oasis quietly disappeared from the app store today. It was reportedly removed after accusations of plagiarism – nothing to do with Instagram or the app interface, rather its logo design. Sina has yet to make an official statement.

Social media apps are no stranger to digital assets, with Telegram’s TON blockchain, South Korean messaging app Kakao launching Klaytn, and Facebook’s controversial Libra. A director at the Chinese central bank voiced concerns of Libra’s disruptive power, especially in China where Facebook is blocked.