Blockchain technology has come a long way. Not so long ago, crypto remained on the sidelines, evangelized by a vocal minority. The narrative changed once the COVID-19 pandemic prompted people to return home with enough time to delve into new interests. Crypto has benefited from the increased attention, entering daily conversations between friends, family and colleagues.
Even so, it is still early in crypto. Widespread adoption remains elusive, and traditional tech gatekeepers maintain their grip on the digital economy. To loosen that grip, those of us building the decentralized Internet, or Web 3.0, need to better define the narrative of what’s at stake if we continue with the status quo.
We have a particularly compelling opportunity to catch the narrative after last month when sentiment against the centralized controllers of Web 2.0 turned particularly sour. The issues become clearer as we see how the structural inequalities of Web 2.0 affect us all.
First, Facebook testified before Congress as a former employee came forward with deleted research showing that the platform puts “profits before safety” of its users. The testimony was accompanied by a major outage at Facebook, affecting all of its products around the world. Then, finally, an anonymous hacker published a mine of Twitch data from Amazon.com Inc.’s video game streaming platform that included source code and creator payments in an attempt to “drive more disruption and competition in the streaming space online video ”.
While I do not tolerate unauthorized access to a company’s confidential information, I certainly understood the emotions involved. As a Web 3.0 entrepreneur focused on building an open infrastructure for video streaming, the size and reach of Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook can stifle innovation. There isn’t much room for upstart services to find their way into a territory dominated by the economies of scale (and access to eyeballs) these businesses enjoy.
So how do we bring the web back to its original vision of being an open platform and a global utility where everyone can contribute and build? We need to seize the narrative to welcome more builders and users into the heart of a thriving Web 3.0 ecosystem.
The open source nature of Web 3.0 means that instead of hacking and disclosing proprietary code, contributors can collaborate on technology and features from day one. Compare that with the walled gardens built and protected by the Big Tech caretakers. Once locked inside, there is little recourse or possibility of getting out. People, businesses and developers are simply subject to the whims of centralized authority, forced to adapt to changes in product or conditions.
I have witnessed the disproportionate influence of these gatekeepers on developers. After the takeover of our first company by Groupon, my co-founder and I built a company that relied on the application programming interfaces (APIs) of the main gatekeepers of technology: Facebook, Google, Pinterest and Twitter. Initially, these platforms were more open, allowing us to plug our service into these platforms. Suddenly, our access was cut off because these platforms decided to close access to third parties. Our service ended up failing because those platforms didn’t stay open, which was a vivid lesson in the risks of relying on someone else’s tech stack.
This experience led us to our next adventure: building the open video infrastructure for live streaming. By building in an open and decentralized manner, we are able to attract developers, nurture a community, and realign the incentives that protect all stakeholders. It is an approach that requires moving from a mentality of protectionism to a mentality of abundance. The pie is either only that big. Therefore, competition must be stifled and prevented at all costs or the sum is greater than its parts, and a community can create more value together than it could on its own.
Related: Striking a chord: DeFi’s domino effect on NFTs and Web 3.0 adoption
In its purest form, the economy of Web 3.0 is transparent and unauthorized, giving stakeholders the assurance that vested interests are not secretly pulling the strings and controlling the results in their favor. This form of creative sponsorship is becoming more popular every day because it is much more friendly to creators than the current options.
This transparent economy is what the creators of the existing Web 2.0 dynamic lack. As creators build in walled gardens, they remain locked into the economy chosen by each platform. And if the platform changes these economics, the creator has little recourse: with few alternatives, the option to leave is often economically infeasible.
Web 3.0 builders should also highlight how eliminating tax auditors allows creators to keep more of the money they’ve earned from their communities. “Keep more of what you earn” and “Tap more on what you love” are great storytelling boosters as Web 3.0 seeks to supplant Web 2.0. With this post, it’s not just about empowering creators, but also empowering fans to give more money to their favorite creators.
The final pillar of Web 3.0 is aligning incentives between creators, users, and the platform itself. These incentives influence the accountability and governance of a platform, which in turn affects toxicity, inclusion, and control.
Related: DeFi and Web 3.0: Unleash your creativity thanks to decentralized finance
Accountability and governance are major issues when it comes to aligning incentives. The gatekeepers of Web 2.0 have little incentive to “do it right by” creators and users. Why would they do it? As there is little competition, users are stuck in the walled garden. And, as private entities with little outside regulation, they can do whatever they want. It’s a “we set the rules, so it’s take it or leave it” attitude and an “us versus them” mentality.
With Web 3.0, governance is often decentralized through a Decentralized Autonomous Organization, or DAO, or other entrenched community feedback mechanisms. By decentralizing community management away from centralized authorities, there is a tendency towards self-moderation. Communities built around shared passions benefit from a natural moderation and when community members step out of the box, the community acts. And if a community member doesn’t like something, they can submit community vote proposals to change the direction of the platform.
Ultimately, creators want more direct relationships with their fans and influence over the governance of the platforms they use. The Web 3.0 paradigm attempts to address this problem by enabling creator-driven platforms that also allow users to own platforms, often coordinated through tokens. As they directly benefit from the growth of platforms, users are urged to provide key services like moderation to prevent things like hate raids.
Of course, nothing is perfect. Web 3.0 will still struggle with some of the moderation issues that other major platforms have encountered. Critics of decentralized platforms say the absence of a centralized authority will make moderation even more difficult.
But, as more platforms emerge to serve niche communities (rather than a single entity capturing everyone inside a walled garden), these small communities are less attractive targets. for the toxicity that plagues the world’s largest platforms. It’s simply more difficult to peddle disinformation and troll when there are dozens, if not hundreds, of platforms.
Related: Adapt or Die: Venture Capital vs Crypto, Blockchain, DAO and Web 3.0
What’s next for Web 3.0
Web 3.0 builders need to pick up on this narrative and move from “winner takes it all” to “community first”. It won’t be easy. And there is still a long way to go until Web 3.0 generates more creative wealth than the Internet has ever created.
As Web 3.0 evolves, we also need to protect ourselves against a downgrade to the mean. It would be a shame to simply reproduce the existing gatekeeper model. That’s why we must continue to skillfully convey the Web 3.0 narrative to help both developers and everyday users understand the value of Web 3.0 – and the pitfalls of staying the course with today’s Web 2.0 dynamics.
After looking at the recent stumbles of Web 2.0, it’s clear that we’ll continue to be blessed with hard-hitting examples of just how far we’ve gone off the rails – and what we need to do to restore the original vision of the Internet as a place that is additive and creative to society.
We’re in it for the long haul. It is up to us to evangelize, to listen to users and to build in a community spirit above all.
This article does not contain any investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should do their own research before making a decision.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Doug petkanics is co-founder of Livepeer, where the team is building a decentralized live video streaming platform to enable the next generation of video streaming. Prior to Livepeer, Doug was co-founder, vice president of engineering and CEO of Wildcard, a mobile browser. He also co-founded and was vice president of engineering at Hyperpublic, which was acquired by Groupon.