Previously, I wrote about the Blockchain Web, a concept for applying blockchain to improve current internet services. This sequel models an alternate vision of monetization and financial success for businesses in the Blockchain Web, leveraging the new technology. Notably, this does not include DeFi solutions, but rather follows a different line of economic incentives. I’ll discuss the current economic environment and the alternate vision from web3. With these in mind, we can look at how a new form of equity—combining aspects of current company equity and the emerging tokenomics—can shift incentives to more stable, useful and better distributed outcomes.
The internet business model is as capitalist as it gets, with a severe prejudice for growth over anything else, be it in user numbers, usage statistics, or profits. This is demonstrated in companies like Facebook or Apple being measured by their growth in usage and ad revenues. In The Nature and Logic of Capitalism, Robert L. Heilbroner points out how central to capitalism is “the use of wealth in various concrete forms, not as an end in itself, but as a means for gathering more wealth.” As the internet companies follow this constant drive for more and to be bigger, they dominate: Big Tech has become the oligarchical ruling class of the internet ecosystem. Heilbroner describes how this affects dynamics of the members within this ecosystem:
The analysis of capital as an expansive process is an important step in escaping from the fetishism of capital as objects, such as machines, or as a sum of money. It leads us to see capital as a web of social activities that permit the continuous metamorphosis of M-C-M' to take place. At the center of this process is a social relationship between the owners of money and goods, the momentary embodiments of capital, and the users of these embodiments, who need them to carry on the activity of production on which their own livelihoods depend. The legal crux of this relationship lies in the right of exclusion: a central, although often ignored, meaning of “property” is that its owners can legally refuse to allow their possessions to be used by others. The critical aspect of money or capital goods as private property does not lie in the right of owners to use them in any way they wish, for such a dangerous social right has never existed, but to withhold them from use if their owners see fit. It is this right that enables the capitalist to dominate the sphere of trade and production in which his authority extends, as other legal rights enable military officers or priests or political figures to dominate the spheres in which their authority extends.
The Blockchain Web is a concept for the future of the internet, backed by blockchain technology and scaled up to the size of the current internet. It combines two ideas. The first is that Big Tech controls the platforms and owns the data that ordinary people use and share, but that power should reside with individuals instead. The second is that the web3/crypto community has tended to focus on building solutions looking for problems, rather than solving problems that already exist. Big Tech owns the whole stack, while web3 would have complete decentralization: the answer is likely somewhere in the middle. Tech platforms are free and we (our data) are the products, crypto sells the promise of token value for using the product: again, look between these two edges.
I’m calling this the Blockchain Web, explicitly not web3. The name web3 implies the functioning and uses for the web are completely changing. I don’t believe we should be tossing out the old and bringing in the new; rather, I think blockchain offers the potential to simply improve on the old. Consider cloud computing: we were able to write documents, build spreadsheets, send memos, listen to music, watch videos and much more before the whole internet was in the cloud. We still do those things, but now the specific devices we use don’t matter, and we can do these things wherever we have a connection. It’s all faster and simpler and more convenient than before. What if things like email and going to concerts and splitting the bill with your friends and even voting were not completely different, but just…better?
That’s what the Blockchain Web is about. By framing the blockchain (in extremely simplified terms) as a distributed and public database, we can think of the Blockchain Web as the existing web, but using the blockchain as the database, not corporate-owned databases. This doesn't redefine patterns, but maintains them while redistributing to individuals autonomy and control over the central component of the internet: data.
Now, this may still sound similar to every other web3 promise. Here are a few points as background to clarify the difference: