Many creators are so focused on producing the best content they can that they don’t always pay attention to what’s going on behind the scenes. That can leave them blindsided when a platform suddenly changes its rules in a way that’s detrimental to their work.
Web3, which encapsulates bitcoin, the blockchain, and more, aims to change all of that. So what is Web3, exactly? And what does it mean for content creators?
What is Web3?
The term “Web 3.0” was coined by Gavin Wood, co-founder of Ethereum, when the token first launched back in 2014. It’s now been popularized as Web3, essentially the next step in the evolution of the internet. NFTs, the blockchain, and bitcoin, are all part of Web3. But to understand what Web3 is in practice, let’s find out where the “3.0” comes from.
In the beginning, there was Web 1.0
The internet really only started being “a thing” in the 1990s. This was back when AOL sent out CDs with “free internet trials” on them, and connecting to a network meant sitting through what sounded like a phone going through a wood chipper. Back in those days, the average internet user didn’t do much more than consume content. And “content” really only meant websites, published by companies. There was no Squarespace or YouTube. It was just a lot of reading.
Then came Web 2.0
If you’re reading this, you’re intimately familiar with this period of the internet’s history. This era was kickstarted by the creation of platforms like Myspace and Facebook in the early 2000s, which allowed average internet users to share content with each other for the first time. Well, that content wasn’t much more than your favorite song and a few animated GIFs, but it was a start.
That’s what sets Web 2.0 apart from Web 1.0: Companies are no longer the only ones creating content. And now, with the advent of platforms like YouTube and Instagram, anyone can create and share all sorts of content online.
Looking ahead: Web 3.0
So what makes Web 3.0 different, really? Think about it this way: For the average internet surfer, Web 1.0 was something they could only consume. They went out looking for content, consumed it, and that was it. With Web 2.0, creation is the name of the game, and anyone can participate. With Web 3.0, it’s all about ownership.
Despite the fact that Web 2.0 allows anyone to create content, the ownership of the web’s biggest platforms is still limited to a few giant players like Google and Meta. That’s why Web 3.0’s core features, from the blockchain to NFTs, are all about de-centralizing that ownership.
The problems of the attention economy
Before exploring how Web3 can potentially solve the problems of Web 2.0, let’s examine those problems.
Few major players dominate the space
Who owns the platforms where your content lives? If where you post content doesn’t already belong to Google, Facebook, or the company behind TikTok, it probably will be soon. Even worse, the content you create is completely tied to those platforms. You can’t take your videos, complete with their likes and comments, with you when you leave YouTube, for example.
As a content creator, you’re essentially forced to participate in a data-trading game. Many social media platforms use your content to collect data from your followers, which they then sell off to advertisers. Not only do you not benefit from this exchange, but you also don’t really get a say in whether it happens or not.
For content creators, metrics like engagement and views are crucial to how much money you can make, and how much support you can get from partner programs. But these metrics can easily be manipulated by malware, bots, and organized campaigns. That makes it tough for legitimate creators to make any headway.
There are other problems with Web 2.0 for content creators, from excessive censorship to data leaks, that can have some serious impacts on your career. What do they all have in common? They’re beyond your control. And fixing that is at the core of Web3’s promise.
Web3’s potential solutions
Web3 is all about democratizing the internet and making sure everyone owns a piece. Here’s how this idea can help solve some of the problems of Web 2.0 for creators, as proposed by Ethereum:
Imagine an internet that isn’t governed by massive companies. An internet where everyone can plant their flag and say, “This is where my content lives.” And because your content isn’t tied to a specific platform, you don’t need to worry about a single rule change completely decimating your metrics.
Who owns your content right now? It may feel like you’re the one in control, but look at the terms and conditions of the platforms your content is on. Do the companies behind those platforms have the right to do whatever they want with your content? With Web3, you can use NFTs — which go beyond the art projects you may have seen online — to prove your ownership of the content you create.
Unless you’ve already made it big as a creator, it’s tough to keep your brand consistent across platforms. Until you’ve got that verified checkmark on all platforms, any number of people can pretend to be you and get traction with your fans. With Web3, there’ll be built-in ways of proving your identity. This not only makes it easier to prove you’re authentic, but it also means you can access multiple platforms with a single account.
One of the biggest vulnerabilities of Web 2.0 is its reliance on external payment processors and institutions. Whether you’re buying a product, collecting money from a social media platform, or getting paid by a sponsor, the money has to go through an external platform. That may be PayPal, a credit card company, or a bank. With that comes certain risks. Think of all the OnlyFans creators who nearly had the rug pulled out from under them when MasterCard decided not to deal with the platform anymore. No matter what kind of content you create, this reliance on external platforms is a liability — one that’s eliminated in Web3.
Web3’s democratization of the internet brings with it a fairer distribution of power. Content creators don’t have to feel like they’re at the beck and call of a specific platform. Fans and followers can contribute directly to your success without going through a payment platform that may block them out. By giving individual creators and their community more power, Web3 allows content creators to be less dependent on a specific platform or payment processor.
Your next move as a creator
So how do you put yourself in a position to benefit from the inevitable shift to Web3? Well, it’s hard to say.
There’s been a lot of buzz about what Web3 can do for the creator economy, but there are also challenges facing the mainstream adoption of it. The broader crypto space is in a bit of a lull, as bitcoin and ethereum — the two biggest cryptocurrencies — have dropped massively in price. The NFT space, which had so far been the cash cow in Web3, has seen a slowdown this year.
Our advice? Keep doing what you’re doing, but keep your eyes open. Web3 isn’t likely to drastically affect your content right now. But big changes are coming, and if you spot an opportunity early, you can be ahead of the curve. Just make sure that whatever opportunity you pursue is low-risk, and that it’s with people you trust.
Web3 is still in its early stages. We’ve seen NFTs become a huge vehicle for asset speculation, sure, but entire projects have sprouted around them, with a greater sense of ownership at their core. The internet we’re used to will eventually become antiquated, when it fails to serve the needs of internet users and content creators. Start looking into what Web3 can do for you now, and you’ll have a head start when things really kick off.