Describing Steem is difficult. While there are a few reasons why, the main one is that it is incredibly different from anything previously created. While one could explain Bitcoin to somebody in 199, and be reasonably successful (Star Wars had a credit system that was presumably outside of Imperial control), explaining Steem is more like trying to describe Facebook to somebody in 1994. Heck, we were still trying to figure out what the internet was in 1994.

What is that @ sign supposed to mean?

Very few Americans had ever used a Bulletin Board Service or even AOL (still called America Online). We have difficulty when we describe Steem because blockchain technology-Web 3.0-is still in its early phase of development.
I’ve described Steem as a social media co-op, which I think is a good way to wrap one’s mind around the communal nature of it, but that blog post still misses so much. Here are some practical ways to describe it that you can use when talking about your Steem habit with friends and family.

Steem is Money

Steem is a blockchain enabled currency that allows people to send money instantly to one another, without having to use a bank. Transactions are free and take 3 seconds, compared to Bitcoin’s 10 minute block time and market determined transaction fee. Steem also has human readable addresses, so usernames look like Twitter handles. They have the @ sign in front of the name, like @protegeaa or @ned, instead of this incredibly long BTC address:


Who’s going to remember that? Nobody. App developers have done a pretty good job of addressing this by using QR codes, but it’s still less than ideal. There are good reasons for Bitcoin using public addresses like it does, but Steem is much more user friendly for an audience beyond early adopters.

Using Steem as money is a great use for it, but it doesn’t fully describe Steem.

Steem is a Blogging Platform

If I had to guess how most people describe Steem, I would guess that they do it by talking about Steemit.

Most people’s first encounter with the Steem blockchain happens by using Steemit, a website that acts as a blog and social media platform. Steemit is a free blogging platform that is a bit of a hybrid between Reddit and Facebook, but with monetary rewards that frequent and talented users earn. 50% of all content posted to Steem is done via

steemit logo

Taking the time to build a blog on Steemit, and gradually earning more money doing it, is a rewarding experience, and can be the catalyst to further writing in the case of some. I’m grateful Steemit exists, but it doesn’t describe Steem completely.

But Steem goes far beyond Steemit! I don’t just post blog articles about cryptocurrency on Steem, I also post pictures of food using Steepshot, an Android and Apple phone app that uses the Steem blockchain.

Steem is an App Platform

Steem has a healthy developer community creating apps that interact with the Steem blockchain, just as the apps on your phone interact with the internet. Did you know that Apple made $38.5 billion dollars in 2017? The Google play store earned $20 billion during the same period.

There’s gold in those hills!

The great news is that there are over 430 projects that are being developed on Steem. Each of the apps that use Steem make interacting with the blockchain easier. Most of these early apps use similar interfaces to current apps. Steepshot, for instance, is an Instagram clone.

steepshot logo

Steepshot is brilliantly designed to allow users to only see other Steepshot posts from those they follow in the app. The result is a satisfying experience sharing photos of travel, food, etc and earning some money while doing it.

Here’s a fun ad the Steepshot team put together.

The best part about Steem as an App platform? Anyone can program an app to use Steem.

Steem is a Community

I use the word Steemian a lot; it is the word many Steem fans use for themselves. Earning money by creating quality content is fun, and it is also hard at times. The community element is important here, as there’s a “we’re all in this together” feel about it. As I wrote earlier, I like to think of Steem as a social media co-op.

Steem is actually many communities, including communities of users from different countries (Korea, Singapore, Germany, Nigeria, and many more!). There are communities based on common interests, such as photography, homesteading, travel, writing, science, music, and many more.

What’s delightfully absent, however, is the toxic political arguing that I see on Facebook and Twitter. When everyone’s armed, people are more polite. Upvotes earn real money, and downvotes (called flags) can lose you money. There is a sense of decency on Steem that is a welcome change from other platforms, and that is why I spend more time on here than I do on Facebook these days.

Upvotes earn real money, and downvotes lose you money

Steem brought a lot of people in who were interested in making cryptocurrency, then stayed because they really enjoyed it. Come for the gains, stay for the friends.

Steem is an Experiment

This is maybe the most important thing to remember: we don’t know where this is all going. Steem is awesome, and I’ve loved every minute of being on it, but the current experience of using it requires users to be flexible, patient, and willing to learn.

Fortunately, there are a lot of Steemians who are exactly that, and meeting them and taking this journey together is a lot of fun.

If you do have the chance to describe Steem to your friends and family, make sure they know it is an experiment, albeit one where we can earn real money. It is an attempt at evolution within social media, and we don’t yet know where it will take us. Steemians who put time and effort into this platform should consider this from time to time.

In Closing

It can be difficult to describe Steem, but hopefully these five practical ways will make it easy for you to explain to friends and family what Steem is. Remember: this list is not exhaustive! There are a lot of great projects I didn’t mention in this article, and there are many future projects that I believe will make Steem one of the most successful blockchains of the early 21st century.

I look forward to taking this journey with all of you.


Interested in optimizing your Steem experience? Do you want to learn more about the Steem blockchain and how Steemit works? Click the logo below for a deep dive on Steem: