We operate The world of Web2. So what does this mean and why is it important to understand?
In today’s social web, almost all of our online experiences, as well as the vast amounts of relevant data that come with those experiences, are controlled by a powerful few. What you watch, like, who you tag, and where you are is not owned by you, but by a select number of extraordinarily large tech companies. You’ve heard of these companies – Facebook, Google, Twitter and TikTok – and they’re all centralized Web2 platforms that “own” most of our online presence. While much of the Web3/decentralized internet talk feels like marketing hype right now, Web3’s core value proposition is exciting. As the leader of a privacy-first social company, I’ve seen a growing interest in online privacy issues over the past few years.
News after news show that companies have been poor stewards of our trust and privacy, which is why I believe companies like Mastodon and my MeWe have seen tremendous growth. People are tired of being manipulated to get their information.
Web3, if executed correctly, could fundamentally disrupt the consolidation of power we see today to move from “big tech” to “people tech.”
Web3, or decentralized technology, allows ownership of digital data to be transferred from companies to their users. This decentralized technology has many potential benefits—new ways to make money, new forms of governance, and ultimately the promise of personal privacy and greater control as an individual user of these tools. Decentralized social media fundamentally shifts the focus of control from the company to the user.
Perhaps the most prominent examples of how our digital privacy is affected in our current Web2 world are the large social media platforms. Recently The Wall Street Journal In an interview with Frank McCourt, founder of the Freedom Project, a nonprofit that aims to change how the Internet works and benefits the digital economy, he said, “Big tech knows more about me than my wife, and I haven’t given them that. permission.” The article goes on to share the fact that “several powerful internet players are ‘harvesting and exploiting’ users’ personal details.”
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There are many barriers to switching social media platforms today. If you’re one of the 45 percent of users who have considered leaving Facebook or other major platforms, you’ve probably felt what this means: Leave the platform and leave your digital life behind. If you leave, the company will often keep your “social graph”—a digital representation of your online connections.
The potential promise of Web3 is the ability to seamlessly move your digital “social graph” from platform to platform, allowing you to tailor your platform choices to your values.
The most popular Web3 companies today are usually cryptocurrency companies, but I believe that when social media is decentralized, we can see the consumer benefits of this technology. In my opinion, many companies like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok will not make this transition because their business models are based on selling user data to generate advertising revenue. Others, like Discord, can lead the way in this transition because they don’t sell user data to generate advertising revenue. But in a decentralized world, each person can have their own “social graph” that allows them to maintain their connections regardless of the platform they use.
Clearly, today’s social media is not as “free” as it seems. We pay for it by controlling and selling the most personal aspects of our lives—our likes, our space, and our friends. But even though we feel manipulated, we’re stuck because all our connections are there. According to the Pew Research Center, Americans are concerned about how their data and information is collected and used by companies (79 percent) and governments (64 percent), creating a moment for change. The Internet should be owned by its users, not by a few large and powerful corporations.
Not long ago, this might have seemed like a wishful, techno-utopian dream language, but technology and the dream are becoming reality. Many entrepreneurs, business leaders and companies need to bravely step into the unknown and take action to make it work. I, for one, am excited about what the future of the human-owned internet will hold for all of us. The future of social media is decentralized, which means the future of social media is ours.