Image copyright Facebook Image caption Justin Ferguson, Director of Businesses and Markets at CDC Software, has re-released a bitcoin social network for schools
When Facebook banned a third-party social network made by Moscow-based bitcoin investor Justin Ferguson, it may have blundered badly.
He started working with schools in 2014, using his bitcoin social network Dogecoin. Soon afterwards, the virus wiping.panda became a top trending term worldwide.
Banks don’t really want to lend to small firms, and you get into deep trouble if you want to provide the back-end for social media and games sites.
OK, Ferguson started in a world where – even if the schools weren’t making any money – he could get lots of his students to use it and get them free stuff in return.
But his work was in a different world.
Times have changed. If Ferguson wants to keep working with schools he needs capital – or he has to go off social media, not on.
Now there is a range of products out there, to provide education with back-end technology, using blockchain technology, where the software, which is designed in labs around the world, is shared by a few companies.
The children’s author Sir Chris Peacock set up Asterisk in 2016, to set up a company to tackle a lack of funding and supply chain problems in publishing.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act created companies to ban children under 13 from using social media sites. Some of those companies formed themselves and invest in blockchain technology.
CBO Kids is an early enterprise that helps schools to buy education software, setting a platform to invest in future education technology.
Jeff Eustis, the CEO of ARM Educational, says these ‘social baans’ can be made by a ‘community of like-minded people.’
‘The worst thing is when there are regulations around it. It’s all too good to be true and they’ve seized it up. Where you could imagine being employed by schools in a few years, the best thing is to build your own community of like-minded people, get the very best companies that offer great software, and then offer something for free to schools because you’ve created this community.’
Ferguson now has about 12 schools using his service, and says he has seen a lot of people interested in getting into social media and the problems it causes.
“We’ve got a small market so we’ve been in this quite long,” he says.
“We’re working with all sorts of groups that are starting to study these problems and they’re becoming more involved. In South America they like using it for their online schools.
“Schools understand that digitalising every class in Latin America is really going to hurt their community members. I have had teachers come up to me and talk about the benefits, saying ‘no one else has looked at this problem, and you’ve brought together what is perhaps the best idea we’ve heard.'”
Image copyright Dogecoin Image caption Ferguson has issued a plug for parents to get their children set up in this social network for schools
This growing interest comes as the cryptocurrency is falling out of favour.
It was too much of a thing in March, when it dropped to $3 billion (around £2 billion) at the same time as it hit a high of $30 billion. But it has been steady in recent weeks and is now worth around $19 billion.
So what of Ferguson’s market? Does this worry him?
“There are a lot of people behind it, which worries me a little bit, but the people that are behind it know that Dogecoin was not successful at anything, so they’re relying on the trust value,” he says.
“They are going to try to build it up and into the norm. So I think that’s a good thing and maybe there will be some good outcomes here.”
Although Ferguson has issued a plug for parents to get their children set up in this social network for schools, he says it’s open source.
It was open source before that. And the fact that it’s up for grabs is good news for the people trying to fill that gap.