In January 1996, Bill Gates published what would go on to become one of the classic essays of the early internet. In it, he describes the very characteristics of the internet that would lay the foundation for the Creator Economy. “One of the exciting things about the internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they create,” he writes.
This is inspiring for me as a writer-illustrator, and as a web3 builder. Thank you very much indeed!
I wish I was optimistic as you. A network of completely decentralized creators generates an unmanageable cacophony of tiny voices demanding attention all at once. I cannot review every new song released on the Internet... it's not humanly possible. So I have to rely on trusted proxies to do a lot of the heavy work for me.
And DAOs typically fail on a utopian belief that humans are the problem in business, as opposed to the asset, and that we can render out all the humans in a machine-to-machine universe of finite rules and order. Oliver Hart's 2015 Nobel Prize in Economics on incomplete contracts proves the folly of this idea to begin with.
Technology is a classic displacement game. Not so much fixing problems as moving them elsewhere. Sometimes that's greatly advantageous. Sometimes it's disastrous. Usually it's a little of both. Technology always gives us the illusion of running to stand still.
This is an interesting thesis. I agree with the problems that web2 has created. I believe part of the problem people have with the shift is they naturally take current behaviors and form factors and mentally push them into the future and say “well that won’t work because of X” - but I believe the potential here is, with new ownership models and new monetization models, to create brand new behaviors and form factors that don't exist today. The stuff thats out there today is based on current models so almost be definition it does not need what web3 offers.
The web3 model is also a “narrowcast” model that is hard to grab ahold of because we’ve only known a broadcast model of the internet. I like the idea of “super fans” being the customers. Their behavior is not “normal” - because they are superfans - but if they want to pay a fee to have special content, access and “patron” status - this should be an option. Does not mean everyone has to participate that way.
Thanks for writing such inspiring article! One quiestion after reading this, how do you see people solve the distribution problem in the future? If web3 is the utopian for creators, there will be tons of content created by hundreds of millions of people. Even though each piece of digital assets could be valuable, one person cannot look up all. Will it eventually need a recommendation/filtering mechanism anyway? Can it be not-centralized and not-human involved? For any "unique asset", it will likely have its copy-cats. Ownership along seems can't really protect the creator if the copy-cat gains much more eyeballs.
Great article. Thank you for that. I have one practical question with regards to NFTs when it comes to music. If an artists tokenizes her work (a song or an album), do I as an NFT holder have rights to the underlying content? Without it, I fail to understand how Patronage+ becomes an investment, not an act of altruism, as you have said in your essay.
Will be grateful for any comments/answers to my question.
Hey Li, I really identify with your thesis that content creator is a core of the Web 3 makeover. Most creators are not great communicators or influencers, and most creators are part-time and leisure based, so we should just provide an environment that allows them to easily make some good arts with each other and get positive social interaction density going even without the need for financial incentives, as good content and community are the original things that makes people stay for more for the long haul.I am working on a NFT composability project that focuses on significantly reducing the difficulty to enter Web 3 and enabling asynchronous co-creation for creators who have little exposure to Web 3. I would love to get in touch and let you know what we have been working on. This is an outline: https://docsend.com/view/qdckermzqdqsaiuf. This is my Twitter: @Franktheftank Have a great day!
This is a spectacular and well distilled analysis of the emerging opportunities. The core promise of web3 is independence or freedom. But to have independence, you must be in absolute control of the things you produce (your property) and your options for distribution and monetization as you see fit. Thank you Li Jin for helping put the language around this in such simple form.
This was an amazing read. Thanks for sharing!! Got a new subscriber here.
read this because of your podcast interview at indiehacker. love your thinking on DAOs. A bit skeptical about it because of the idea that every decision has to be voted which is very counterproductive. Luckily I'm enlighted by your interview.
I recently began making 3D models using computer software, which has resulted in needing a more powerful computer. Unfortunately, it is not possible to buy a graphics card because the ETH miners have bought all the cards - with shopping bots buying them up faster than a normal person can. So it's ironic that NFT (powered by ETH) is held up as helping me, the artist - when it is hurting me because I can't buy a powerful graphics card for 3D modeling.
Sure, you can buy cards from scalpers (many of whom are scammers based on reading reviews) for prices 3x MSRP - which is very risky - many people who buy such never receive the card - or they get a used card that was in a mining machine and is on its last legs. I'd prefer not take that kind of risk - I mean, would you pay a scalper (possibly scammer) $1000 for a card that is in China (and should cost around $330)?
This problem has really soured my support of NFT's.
Lovely post, though I have to say, I think this take is wildly optimistic. Not least: journalism was always funded by advertising. Journalists were never particularly well-paid. The internet expanded the supply of advertising space, and the precision of targeting, such that the revenue from advertising—and the money to pay creators—plummeted. it beggars belief that the friction of auto-filling credit card information is the reason consumers won't pay for online media. Attention is scarce. Content is abundant. Price falls.
DAO and community ownership sound pretty much like digital communism.
Communism is not efficient, why should digital communism be better?
How are “web2” platforms like substack and patreon not already accomplishing this? Why is blockchain needed to facilitate? Seems like a completely forced argument to give utility to web3, which is otherwise largely without mainstream use.
Also, the underlying thesis that people want to engage with content in a totally (or even partially) decentralized manner seems to be completely at odds with reality. Sure, ad based web has its problems but by and large people want FREE.