Why YouTube Will Not Embrace Web3
Last week, CoinTelegraph reported that YouTube promoted Web3-friendly Neal Mohan to CEO of the world’s second largest search engine. Everyone’s talking about. It’s big news. All the boring people are as excited as pop rocks in a bounce house. And, frankly, I don’t give a shiitake.
That’s not true. I went looking at all the Web3 social media platforms I could find and saw no evidence that Mohan was using any of them. Maybe he’s just committed to YouTube.
As early as last February—as in 2022—Mohan wrote a blog post praising Web3, in essence saying that NFTs could open up new possibilities for creators to earn additional revenue. On YouTube! In other words, in Mohan’s mind, Web3 = non-fungible tokens (NFTs) integrated with videos of stupid human tricks.
Mohan even suggested that NFTs can help creators “build deeper relationships with their fans.”
He sounds like a real Web3 dude, doesn’t he?
Except that’s about as far as he goes. Though he does spell out that fans can own unique videos, photos, and art of their favorite creators while collaborating with creators on certain projects. That would be awesome if it happened on YouTube. Surely that’s in the works, isn’t it?
Well, keep your panties pulled up tight because, no, not yet. And it may never happen. But if it does, so what? That’s not exactly a rabid endorsement of Web3 principles.
Web3 is about more than NFT technology and adopting cryptocurrencies as a form of payment. It goes beyond facilitating new types of transactions to embracing certain principles that have been at the heart of the internet since its beginnings. Let’s discuss these one at a time:
Decentralization - Web3 is decentralized. In other words, it veers from the Web2 model of centralized walled gardens owning and controlling everything they can put in their double-speaking mouths. I very seriously doubt that YouTube is going to transition into a decentralized video sharing platform.
Peer-to-Peer - While facilitating crypto transactions and introducing NFTs to Web2 audiences is a step forward for a platform like YouTube, it not falling over backwards and landing in Web3’s front lawn. True Web3 properties facilitate peer-to-peer transactions. That rules out a lot of platforms that purport to be Web3. Even some of my favorite websites.
Trustless - Web3 is trustless. That means technology is used to facilitate transactions between parties in such a way that those parties don’t need to trust each other, or an intermediary, in order for that transaction to succeed. A centralized entity cannot facilitate trustless transactions any more than a lightbulb can emit darkness.
Permissionless - In order to embrace Web3, YouTube would have to allow creators to upload videos without having an account attached to their identities. Permissionless systems don’t require authentication. Everyone has equal access and no one is excluded. Users can’t be demonetized, deplatformed, or shadowbanned. Though they may be tossed a worthless token (pun intended) of appreciation from time to time.
Distributed Ownership - Web3 also facilitates a new type of ownership paradigm. It distributes ownership to those who create value to the degree that value is created. In other words, if content consumers add value to a creation simply by interacting with it, which happens when users comment on YouTube videos, like them, and watch them to the end, then those users receive a value in return. Delegated proof-of-stake blockchains call these rewards, and the rewards represent distributed ownership in the platform as well as the individual creations made by creators on the platform. This can occur in a variety of ways, but the bottom line is that value is shared between the platform itself, creators on the platform, and content consumers on the platform. YouTube is not likely to share its revenues with every user who logs into its platform. They probably won’t even throw bones to dogs.
Governance - Web3 also introduces new methods of governance that are decentralized, distributed, and not based on traditional hierarchies. In other words, no CEOs.
Creation-centric - Web3 is also about credentialing the work of a creator based on the value of that work to the community. In legacy systems, creators are valued based on social status, educational attainment, or other external factors. These are not necessarily bad ways of credentialing, but Web3 allows anyone from any background an opportunity to prove their value by rewarding them based on the community’s collective valuation of individual creations. A video creator with a single viral video can potentially earn more than a video creator with hundreds of videos with modest views and audience engagement—even if that creator never uploads another video.
Ownership - Web3 is about ownership—of data, identities, intellectual property rights, digital assets, and more. Any Web property that seeks to embrace Web3 principles must turn over ownership of all assets to creators and platform users. That includes the relationships those creators have with their fans. The current advertiser model of YouTube works against this principle as content creators do not have the ability to own their fan data, use that data to interact directly with their fans outside of the platform, or port their fans from YouTube to another platform.
This is not an exhaustive list of Web3 principles, but it does illustrate how unlikely YouTube is to embrace Web3 principles until there is a compelling reason for it to do so. There are only two scenarios under which YouTube would have a compelling reason to fully embrace Web3.
Every other Web2 social media platform embraces those principles leaving YouTube the only large platform left behind and its audience begins to migrate to platforms that have moved forward toward the principles of the future;
Or, Web3 social media platforms become so popular that they begin to siphon users from the legacy platforms—like YouTube and Facebook—so quickly that these platforms can feel the pain and change their business models to keep up with the rising young stars.
Thus far, neither of these have happened. Ideally, both would happen and YouTube would embrace Web3 principles. Until it does, don’t hold your breath (unless you cheat and breathe out of the corner of your mouth when no one is watching).
I wrote about these principles in my book Web3 Social: How Creators Are Changing the World Wide Web (And You Can Too!), which is available on Amazon (and a few pirate websites that shall remain unnamed).
Cryptocracy is a decentralized newsletter published several times a week. I curate the latest news and crypto analysis from some of the brightest minds in crypto, and sometimes offer a little insightful and snarky commentary. Always fresh, always interesting, and always crypto. Original articles on Fridays.
First published at Cryptocracy. Not to be construed as financial advice. Do your own research.