Web3 Social: How Creators Are Changing the World Wide Web (And You Can Too!)
The World Wide Web was created for creators. I’ll stake my reputation on that.
From 1990 to 2014, creators all around the world flocked to this new thing called the World Wide Web—technology some people say is more powerful than Gutenberg’s press— to communicate in ways that had never been done before. In 2014, a computer scientist named Gavin Wood referenced what he called “Web3”, but he wasn’t the first person to coin that phrase. Eight years earlier, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Web’s creator, referred to what he called Web 3.0. His Web 3.0, however, was very different from the Web3 that Wood describes.
Before I discuss Web3 and its benefits, I want to identify the problem those benefits aim to solve. Ready for it? Drumroll …
On current social media platforms, YOU are the product.
As striking as that sounds, consider these three things every business needs to make a profit:
Employees are the people who get things done. They make the products, build the technology, and run the machinery of the business. From the CEO to the janitor, every task performed contributes to the bottom line and whether that business makes a profit. But employees alone don’t make a business. A business also needs customers and products. The question is: What is the product of social media platforms?
You might be surprised to learn that you and your data are the product, while advertisers, the source of social media revenues, are the real customers. In fact, in the third quarter of 2021, advertising made up 97% of Facebook’s revenue. Now you know why the company allows you to create content on its platform for free.
On legacy social media platforms, you are the product.
The social media business model is a holdover from the 20th century when mass communication media companies pioneered this model. Television, radio, and print media all used the same basic business model—provide content for free (or at a low cost) to subscribers and charge advertisers to gain access to those consumers.
At the turn of the millennium, I was a newspaper editor. I saw firsthand how this business model was my ticket to putting food on the table. My salary came from advertisers, not readers of my newspaper. While we did have subscribers and regular readers who paid a quarter (later, fifty cents) to pick up our paper from the newsstand, the lion’s share of revenue came from advertisers.
It was the same with TV and radio. In those mediums, content consumers had free access to programming. The customer was the advertiser.
Since 2006, I’ve made my living selling writing services online. Most of my customers have been businesses that need content marketing products such as blog posts and white papers. I’ve spent a lot of time writing blog posts, white papers, product descriptions, social media content, and even ghostwriting books for others. Customers paid me to write content they put their names on. On some occasions, I did snag a byline.
Here’s the point: Once again, I got a front-row seat to watch the money flow from advertisers to platforms and content creators. Without businesses willing to pay me to write content, I wouldn’t have been able to make a living. I’m thankful for that.
Still, I’m a huge believer that good things can be made better, and an even bigger believer in continuous improvement. The Web is not perfect. Social media is not the best that it can be. And a new generation of builders and entrepreneurs has arrived to take the World Wide Web to the next phase in its evolution. Web3 is that phase.
So, how does Web3 solve the problem of Web2? In a nutshell, it moves the content creator from being the product to being a part of the platform. With current social media, you produce content for the platform to monetize. With Web3, you create your own platform to monetize, and you can do that without having coding or programming skills.
The Web1 era lasted from 1990 to around 2000. That phase of the Web is what many people refer to as “read-only.” It involved logging on and reading Web pages. The only interaction people had was when they clicked a link to go to another Web page.
The second phase of the World Wide Web, the phase we’re in now, is the “read-write” era. In this phase, the Web is more interactive. Not only can visitors to a website read the content on the page, but they can also interact with the content—leave comments, watch videos, and more. This new age of the Web empowers blogs, wikis, forums, email lists, podcasts, videos, and text messaging. Over time, these technologies have grown to be more robust, and peer-to-peer (P2P) technology has taken root.
In one sense, Web2 is a golden age for online content creators. It has given birth to millions of bloggers, video content creators, podcasters, and other creators who have turned their talents into income streams. That also includes traditional creators who used the Web for marketing purposes, allowing them to turn their talents into profitable businesses. Among these creators are photographers, videographers, freelance writers, musicians, and more.
As I said, I’m thankful for the opportunities the Internet has provided me. It’s allowed me to make a living and support my family for nearly two decades. But Web3 has arrived and is making things even better for creators. The creator economy is about to take off to the far reaches of the universe, and creators who get on board now will pave the path for the next generation.
While Web3 is still being defined, and the definition debated, there is one characteristic that sets it apart from the first two phases of the World Wide Web, as evidenced by the term most closely associated with it—“read-write-own.”
The three phases of the World Wide Web:
Web1 - Read phase
Web2 - Read-write phase
Web3 - Read-write-own phase
Web3 technology is delivering a new benefit to being a content creator. Through decentralization and trustless technology, content creators can create their own platforms and monetize those platforms without the need for intermediaries. In other words, creators no longer must rely on third-party platforms to provide an online location for connecting with fans and driving those fans back to their own websites for monetizing. In essence, Web3 allows content creators the ability to be the platform and own the platform.
The next phase of the Web will be an open, interactive social graph where digital identities are portable, data is more secure, and content is more easily monetized.
Content creators are not the only ones who will benefit from this. Curators, those who find great content and share it with others, will also be able to earn income by establishing their own platforms. In some cases, fans of creators and curators can earn additional income too.
Trustless technology removes the middleman. Instead of technology being used to connect creators and fans, using both to drive revenue for the platform, it can be used to facilitate a deeper, more meaningful relationship between creator and fan. Transactions between creators and fans will be more direct. Technology will simply be a conduit that brings the two together to transact on their own terms.
Decentralization means no one owns or controls the technology. It is peer-to-peer, trustless, secure, and immutable. If no one owns or controls it, anyone can build on top of it. In other words, Web3 isn’t about platforms; it’s about protocols.
To facilitate an easier and more enjoyable reading experience, I’ve organized this book into sections.
Part 1 introduces the basic concepts discussed in the rest of the book.
Part 2 dives into the history of the Internet before the World Wide Web.
Part 3 explores the mysteries of Web1, which gave birth to the creator economy.
Part 4 follows the major developments of the Web’s interactive phase and how it has expanded the creator economy while giving rise to social media behemoths like Facebook and Twitter.
Part 5 covers the nascent stage of Web3, including a survey of emerging tools that promise to catapult the Web toward a more robust creator economy.
Part 6 explains how creators, curators, and moderators can use Web3 tools to build their own platforms and monetize them.
Part 7 shows how the future Web will become more decentralized as the nature of social media transforms into a social graph that includes portable identities and greater autonomy for individual creators.
Along the way, I’ll give creators and curators practical suggestions for onboarding onto Web3, so that they are better positioned to take advantage of the benefits when the time comes to cash in—and that may be sooner than you think.
I hope this structure makes it easy to move through the material at your own pace. If you want to understand the history of the Web and how we got from a decentralized Department of Defense asset to our current state of walled gardens and Internet siloes, you can read straight through from beginning to end. However, if you’re only interested in how technology is changing the basic nature of the Web today, you can start at Part 4.
After finishing the book, I’d love to get your feedback. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts.
See you in Web3.
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