Delving into the future of the Web and going beyond traditional social media platforms to study the new inclusive platforms of the future
While communities have always been important to the social fabric of societies, their economic and business potential had been underexplored. To understand why, in this piece, let’s explore the history of the internet and Web 3.0.
The first era of the web, or Web 1.0, was about how we process and consume information. Yahoo, Netscape, Craigslist, AOL were Web 1.0 companies. Google “won” this era by democratising information and building a solid advertisement-driven business model on top of it.
The second era of the internet, Web 2.0, gave birth to platforms that enable interaction, giving us Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc. Information, goods, and services were brought under the same umbrella. People started taking cabs, going on trips and dates, and building work partnerships with strangers. On Uber, you could hail a cab or make some side income driving after work. On Instagram, posting content and watching videos became a thing. And finally, “influencer” became a noun instead of a verb.
The second era of the internet, Web 2.0, gave birth to platforms that enable interaction, giving us Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, etc. Information, goods, and services were brought under the same umbrella.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange of information was the defining characteristic of Web 2.0. It also propelled the growth of the internet but most of the economic benefits went to large, centralised platforms who set the rules and controlled data flow. This created a complicated relationship amongst the platforms, participants, and policymakers. The policymakers wanted to regulate the internet but weren’t sure how to go about it. The participants were happy with the economic benefits but disgruntled with the unequal distribution. The platforms felt they were being attacked from all corners, despite their contribution to the internet explosion. The fundamental challenge of the Web 2.0 era was concentration of power, influence, data, and capital.
Enter Web 3.0. A new type of digital product has started gaining traction around the world, one that is co-owned, co-created, and co-run. This constitutes the third era of the internet and is defined by decentralisation, declining trust in institutions and a new way of looking at value creation and value capture. We are already seeing some of it in action in the media world. For instance, Mirror.xyz. describes itself in this way -
“Joining Mirror does not only make you a community member. It makes you a co-owner of the platform. As a result, our platform is a sum of our contributors. While we are eager to grow Mirror to a monumental scale, we’ll first be granting access on an individual basis to ensure a quality foundation”
On Mirror, writers can raise capital to do research, draw a monthly salary for expenses in advance from readers to write the book/article/novel they want to read. And these readers/investors get a bigger stake in the pie. Essentially, it makes the relationship more well-defined. The outcome is tangible, the terms are well-understood, and the scope of failure is reduced. Organisations, digital products, media, and social networks like Mirror would play a crucial role as the internet enters its third phase.
Network Capital is a peer-to-peer plarform built by the author of this piece. It will be co-created, co-owned, and co-run by the community members in the long run. While the exact roadmap is still being figured out, given below are some ideas for building equitable and inclusive communities. It is not an exhaustive list; only three ideas have been handpicked on which the author has collected significant amount of data over the years.
Creating a level playing field in any community involves creating a safe space for everyone. Out of 100,000+ community members, more than 50 percent are women. This didn’t just happen on its own. Communication—both internal and external—has been designed in a way that women found a safe space online to learn with and from peers from other sectors, countries, industries, and to build career aspirations. Through our weekly newsletters, podcasts, masterclasses, and cohort-based-courses, we constantly reiterated the importance of gender parity in the future of Network Capital. With time, the message started to stick, and people started thinking of the community as a gender-neutral platform to network and learn. The larger insight here is that community design needs to be intentional from the beginning, it can’t be an afterthought.
Network Capital is a subscription-based community. One way to ensure that affordability does not deter economically-disempowered students and young professionals to join is variable pricing. Through the funds from Facebook and our endowment fund, we have now made Network Capital need-blind. If someone can’t afford their subscription fee but has the hunger to learn, we provide up to 100 percent scholarship.
Network Capital is a peer-to-peer plarform built by the author of this piece. It will be co-created, co-owned, and co-run by the community members in the long run.
In our school and cohort-based fellowships, there are hundreds of students and young professionals who are attending classes free of cost. We plan to scale this access programme further and believe it will an important step towards bridging the talent-opportunity mismatch.
The question of scale needs to be addressed by every community. Even the most efficiently run communities tend to optimise for cultural fit, i.e., seek individuals who are like others in the network. That is a mistake. Culture must evolve and adapt with time, space, and demographic shifts.
Once Network Capital created its school, thousands of teenagers joined the community. Their engagement norms were different from existing community members; they used technology differently and wanted different outcomes. Designing digital products and experiences tailored to their needs was one of the most important things Network Capital did in 2021. Integrating teenagers within the Network Capital ecosystem helped strengthen the culture of the community by making it more inclusive.
Web 3.0 will be a unique opportunity to redefine the role of communities in economic life. With the right structural interventions, platforms, participants, and policymakers, we can make co-owned, co-run, and co-created communities the norm. Such communities will be relatively more equitable and egalitarian. Their members will have real skin in the game, i.e., equity and ability to influence key decisions. Web 3.0 communities might just make the followers of both Karl Marx and Adam Smith excited about the future.
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Utkarsh Amitabh is the chief executive officer of Network Capital and the chief marketing officer of 5ire.org, a blockchain unicorn valued at $1.5 billion. 5ire.org acquired a stake ...Read More +