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Interoperability will not be built overnight, and may never happen on a large scale.
Original title: “Taking Mirror as an example, interoperability may drain the moat of Web 2”
Written by: Joey DeBruin
Interoperability is the connecting line of future social networks. This is the reason why Facebook and Twitter are working hard to fundamentally transform their existing products. It is also the reason why I think the cryptocurrency publishing platform Mirror–the place where this article was published–is underestimated, even though it won a A round of financing of 100 million US dollars. Interoperability means that in order to succeed in the future, the builders will design individual Lego pieces instead of the entire sculpture.
Currently, the world of consumer technology may feel unable to keep up with NFTs, social tokens, cryptocurrency wallets, AR/VR, and meta universe. These terms describe new products and experiences and will continue to change, but interoperability is the core mechanism that brings them together. It will drive the next wave of product development, including and especially the science where I spent most of my time.
Therefore, I will try to make interoperability as cool as a pixelated punk. I want to list the way to the turning point-when you wake up one day, the Internet is almost incomparable with the current situation. In order to make these methods as concrete as possible in this abstract world, I will do this through the lens of Mirror, whose vision is to make interoperability opportunities obvious.
The dream of interoperability
Essentially, “interoperability” means that multiple products or services can use the same information.
Take healthcare as an example. If I choose to change doctors (because my current doctor is a hacker), I want my new doctor to have access to all my medical records. This is important because it promotes competition and allows the development of a more diverse ecosystem. My doctor should compete based on who can make me healthiest, not who can monopolize my data. Healthcare also illustrates the privacy challenges faced by interoperability, but there will be more challenges in the future.
As Ben Thompson pointed out in The Web’s Missing Interoperability , interoperability is actually one of the core benefits mentioned at the beginning of the last wave of consumer technology, which many people call Web2.0. But we did not get interoperability from large Web2 giants such as Facebook and Twitter. What we get is almost the exact opposite—their business model is based on capturing data, storing it in a private database, and charging advertisers for usage. We quickly pointed the finger at Facebook or Twitter, but blaming them is almost no different from blaming McDonald’s for the rise of fast food. This system, especially consumer pressure, has clearly not created effective incentives for interoperability technologies.
More than a decade later, during the dawn of Web3, consumer demand for a healthier Internet is growing. Several important data points indicate that large-scale interoperability is finally possible. First of all, we see that the giants are exploring this space with more energy and openness than you think. Twitter through their “BlueSky” project is very publicly researching how to establish an open and interoperable standard for social media. Zuckerberg has also been talking about turning Facebook into a meta-universe company recently.
The reason why social giants consider such a bold new direction is simple, because interoperable charts are more beneficial to creators, and creators are a scarce resource in the next iteration of the Internet that is coming quickly. In a world of interoperable data, the most valuable asset will be creators establishing complex business relationships between their content, audience, and other creators. Subscribers will be replaced by supporters, angel investors will be replaced by angel audiences, and collaborators will be replaced by co-owners. Type technology companies have many characteristics, but excluding silence, the giants realize that tapping these capital flows is the source of trillions of dollars in the future.
To put it bluntly, it is difficult to imagine how the transition to interoperability will actually occur among these existing giants. Although they have been building a large number of new features in accordance with the aforementioned creator-centric strategy – tips, subscriptions, funding for creators, better business tools – only time will tell whether they can execute them fairly publicly. A huge shift in exploration.
The question after “Is it possible?” is “Why should we care?” What would happen if Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other companies opened up their huge databases? As creators and consumers, what new types of products can we imagine from a more interoperable world? Just give a few examples to describe.
- No matter where you post, and no matter who you work with, it is connected to your unique ID and distributed to your followers.
- Automatically update files. There is no need to manually create LinkTree for various projects, just enter your universal creator ID, and there will be automatic filling and updating.
- Take Twitter as an example. I found a version of Twitter that pulls in everyone you follow and their content, but it is presented as a single daily summary rather than a time-consuming feed. Are you ready to go back to the “normal” application? This is also good-these applications are parallel and have all the same content.
- Do you like Taylor Swift? With just one click, you can follow her in all her accounts.
Large-scale interoperability is possible, and it can make the product ecosystem healthier and more diverse. As Jarrod Dicker pointed out, it remains to be seen whether Web2 can exist as a parallel to Web3 in the future. But it is clear that Web3 is coming soon, and whether it can completely replace it in the end will depend on our value to the media as creators and consumers. Therefore, the next step is to look at the changing preferences and pressures, which are beginning to mainstream interoperability.
Substack and Web2.5
Money can make things worse, and it has always been difficult to build your own business as a creator. It requires stacking many different components together-content creation, distribution, revenue generation, management, and so on. The cost of integrating or coordinating these different building blocks is very difficult for individual or small-scale creators, and this is why they only write articles in the “New York Times”, only publish and sing in Sony, and only act in Disney.
But things are changing-consumers increasingly like to build trust with individuals or small groups. Packy puts it best in ” Power belongs to the individual .”
“People follow people, not companies, but companies have a long-standing advantage because building large-scale products requires all coordination… Ben Thompson said that media companies are the first companies to adapt to the new paradigm shift because Their products are relatively simple. They require very little coordination of all parties, and only need the ability to capture and disseminate one’s ideas, images or dance moves.”
The first media ships to drift across the Web2 moat were Substacks and Patreons. They are the first major media networks to build huge businesses by optimizing the success of creators instead of consumer participation. They are still completely vertical, but creators can theoretically download the emails of their audiences and take them away.
I call it Web2.5 because Substack and Patreons are open, but not interoperable. Nothing prevents me from downloading my Substack users and posts and manually transferring to a new platform. Data is accessible, but not interoperable, which will have a great impact in building the future of the Internet.
A side-by-side comparison of social graphs in Web2 and Web3
So, if interoperability is possible, exciting, and we see early signs of it happening, what will true interoperability in the media bring? the following:
I admit that I am not even sure if I can imagine a future where all the Internet will operate in this way. We may always have fast food-style things. But the problem is that some things will be there, because some things are already there. Now we are finally ready to lift up the “Mirror” (Mirror).
Mirror: A mapping for the future of interoperability?
Mirror, the smash hit “crypto Substack”, has just raised more than $10 million in funds from A16Z and other companies, and now it looks more like “crypto Kickstarter and crypto Patreon meet crypto Substack”.
Hidden behind the ambiguous new features, the core structure of Mirror is consistent and visionary. This is a bet worth understanding. It is about the future of interoperable content, the Internet native currency in the form of tokens, and the dynamic new businesses that may emerge because of them.
From a distance, Mirror really resembles Substack–it has a publishing tool and a way to generate revenue. The most obvious difference is that it has a lot of fancy cryptocurrency tools to run crowdfunding, generate NFTs for your content, and get tips and other ways to generate revenue.
However, after careful inspection, we can see that it is not far away from the interoperability model of Web3 through the same standards mentioned above.
- A unique creator ID: I use my public Ethereum address, owned by a private key, and published on Mirror.
- An open content database connected to my ID: Mirror stores content on a decentralized storage system called Arweave. If Mirror is closed tomorrow, I can access all my articles by querying Arweave to get posts signed by my Ethereum address.
- Open social and economic charts: All important relationships established on Mirror are publicly stored. The addition of new members to the platform is carried out through their $WRITE competition, which is a decentralized, publicly viewable vote, and existing members have a higher weight. When I share the proceeds of my article with another writer, or when the audience buys NFTs in crowdfunding through my article, all these things are signed with an Ethereum address and stored publicly. Anyone can build applications on the basis of these data. For example, a “Crunchbase for Creators” shows how much funds each creator has received over a period of time and the source of these funds.
- Standards: Mirror both use and help establish open standards for their use of core technologies. They use Ethereum standards, such as ERC20 for homogenization tokens, ERC721 for NFT, signature standards for data verification and so on. There are no standards for other areas such as NFT sales and royalties. Mirror is working hard to establish standards that can be used by others. And better standards mean more adoption of these new technologies, and then benefit Mirror, because it is the place where the best creator experience can use these technologies to build a business.
It can be seen that owning content is not important to Mirror’s strategic moat. What makes Mirror unique, and making it a sticky product for creators, is that it provides many ways to build business that are not available elsewhere. Mirror greatly reduces the coordination cost of creating a complex online business as a writer-hidden behind the seemingly content platform, it is actually a powerful encryption support tool that integrates crowdfunding, e-commerce and media platforms. It is a combination of Kickstarter, Patreon and Substack.
As a more specific example, a film team has just raised $2 million to produce a documentary about Ethereum. Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter have a donation limit of $10,000, require a bank account, and only support certain jurisdictions. On the other hand, Mirror’s cryptocurrency native crowdfunding tool has a programmable donation limit (the maximum donation is more than 200,000 US dollars), only requires a cryptocurrency wallet, and is open to anyone with an Internet connection.
Patrick Rivera, an engineer at Mirror and one of the most noteworthy people in this field, calls it the ” protocol economy .” Companies like Mirror currently have publishing and distribution, because considering the user experience issues that are common in cryptocurrencies, they must build vertical solutions. Vertical integration enables Mirror to establish simple and effective channels among powerful agreements that will become their strategic moat in the future.
Cryptocurrency products that are not vertically integrated will eventually allow their users to pass through a complex maze of different encryption applications, and these applications may have varying degrees of usability. To integrate the user journey into a single application and enable encryption products to significantly improve the user experience to promote better access, participation, and long-term retention, the key is to use open code and data standards to build high-quality integration Experience.
Unrolling the open structure currently hidden under Mirror’s vertical integration solution, you can see that the transition from a publishing company to managing a vibrant protocol economy has little to do with the content itself. It is about building developer tools for teams to use their contracts and content tools. This is about SDK, API, sub-pictures and documentation. Their competitors will be Stripes and Stirs in the world, not Substack. At this point, there may be multiple different applications processing release and distribution, all routing through the business layer of Mirror to deal with issues such as funding, governance, revenue split and other issues. (Note: Stripes is a presentation framework that uses the latest Java technology to build Web applications.)
Will interoperability drain the moat of Web2?
Interoperability will not be built overnight, and may never happen on a large scale. Several key obstacles include high transaction fees, the difficulty of managing cryptocurrency wallets, and the scarcity of talent in the field (although these are improving rapidly). Not to mention privacy, security and moderation-these topics can be written as a whole, but there are good reasons to believe that these are technical limitations that can be resolved.
The motivation to meet these challenges can only come from exponential user experience improvements, because every new interoperable product will be added to the ecosystem. In other words, the network effect of the interoperable ecosystem competes with the network effect of the walled garden of Web2. Using your Ethereum wallet as your Mirror account is cool, but if you can use the same wallet to log in to another important product you use, the benefits will multiply. At a certain point, you may actively like to use products that allow you to use your wallet, just as you like to shop in a business that accepts your credit card. This is the turning point.
I hope that companies like Mirror will work hard to promote interoperability, even if they focus on establishing a channel to cryptocurrency through vertically integrated solutions to control the end user experience. If they can actively establish seamless integration with other open content platforms (such as Audius ), they can greatly accelerate the adoption of a more open Internet.
The more open platforms rely on and develop the same technology, the more they are effectively investing in each other. They become a super organism, a swarm of bees. As Packy said in “Who disrupts the disruptors” ( Who disrupts the disruptors ), people want to know which new platform will challenge the giants, but the biggest threat to the real turning point is the swarm of open platforms.
When it comes to interoperability, platforms like Mirror face such a huge and important challenge. But this is not all exciting things-for a more open model, there are some major challenges. You can talk about the work they are doing, but centralized platforms have unique advantages in terms of privacy and moderation. These advantages will be difficult to build on a more decentralized network.
Interestingly, the best place I found is Twitter’s BlueSky project, where you can read all about the challenges that need to be overcome to build a decentralized media platform on a large scale. They have planned a lot of content in the GitLab project, which involves open identities, moderate privacy, monetization, and so on. So maybe we shouldn’t be disappointed on the existing basis-if nothing else, we should get some confidence from the fact that people with large sums of money pay considerable attention to this topic.
Patrick and I will host a meeting to discuss interoperability, Mirror and some exciting new developments-when we set the date, please follow me on Twitter or join Forefront discord to grab a spot.
*Thanks to Patrick Rivera, Jarrod Dicker, Raphael Menezes, and Dan Shipper for helping to write this article.
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