Facebooks’s most recent “Look over there!” moves—including a name change and the launch of its Metaverse vision—attracted the expected levels of disdain-soaked mockery.
But, chilling as it may have been to see an avatar of Mark Zuckerberg introducing… an avatar of Mark Zuckerberg, this was yet another milestone in the We Need To Put On Our Learning Caps journey that is modern life.
Of course, B2B marketers have already been on some pretty steep learning curves over the last ten years. It’s been fun as heck but it can also be a bit tiring. It’s tempting to whine, “Can’t we just all agree to do it this one way for a few months?”.
No. We can’t. We’re sharks, if we stop moving, the other fish make fun of us.
So buckle up that Shark Saddle, mix up some metaphors, and get ready for what feels like the next huge learning curve.
It’s Web 3.0: blockchain, crypto, NFTs, DeFi, the Metaverse and all that stuff.
For the last couple years, my response to this whole blockchain/crypto/DeFi/NFT/Metaverse thing was to just kind of keep an eye on it.
When I first learned about Bitcoin and the idea of a decentralized currency, I swore I could hear that Cello-of-Doom riff from Jaws. Like this weird little idea would somehow grow to destroy civilization as we know it. (A more cheerful prospect than it felt like at the time).
Since then, I’ve tried to learn more about it.
And pretty much failed.
I gobbled up dozens of YouTube videos, podcasts and blog posts about blockchain alone—but so little of it stuck.
Okay it’s a ‘distributed ledger’… so what?!!
What does that even mean? And who cares? And why is Elon Musk tweeting about Doge coins?
(The last time I felt like this was when I studied Chinese in college: I’d never worked so hard for so little return.)
My early conclusion was that this whole thing was either just a big, frothy bubble-scam or a geeky curiosity that would only flower for long enough to be stomped out by governments and regulators.
But I kept seeing people that I respected getting serious about all this stuff (let’s use Web 3 as the umbrella term). Like Dharmesh. And A16z. And Vitalek Buterin.
So I kept trying to learn about it.
And slowly, enough of it sunk in that—while I still can’t explain it to my neighbour—I’m now convinced this is indeed enormous.
That Web 3.0 could one day be even more disruptive and innovation-fuelling than the internet was. (Yeah, I went there).
That it will change every market and every discipline (including B2B companies and B2B marketing) while inventing whole new—and way more interesting—markets and disciplines.
That it will create new mega-winners we haven’t yet heard of and many, many losers that we have. (Looking at you, Morgan Stanley).
And that some of it could happen way faster than we think (while other parts will happen way slower—just like with the Internet).
In short, I’m covinced that you and I should probably be learning about Web 3.0 right now.
Caveat: The crypto/blockchain world is still full of scams and hype and bullshit and get-rich-quick schemes and wild speculation and nonsense and bullying and stupidity. We should expect at least one big crash to help wipe that stuff away, so we can see the real value.
What is Web 3.0?
There are hundreds of definitions out there but they’re starting to converge on a few core ideas. Here are a few:
“Web3 is the internet owned by the builders and users, orchestrated with tokens.”@packyM
“Web 3 refers to an internet built upon decentralized networks, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. The key innovation of these networks is the creation of platforms that no single entity controls, yet everyone can still trust.”@katiewav
“A leap forward to open, trustless and permissionless networks.”
(Here ‘Open’ means both open source and fully transparent; ‘Trustless’ means the software governs transactions instead of a supposedly trusted third party; ‘Permissionless’ means anyone can participate).
I won’t stop to try to explain the concepts used in these definitions because A) You probably don’t care yet. and B) I couldn’t explain them if I wanted to (your Googling is as good as mine).
The important part is that these fairly simple, technical-sounding ideas have profound implications—on computing and networking, yes, but also on business models, whole industries, the concept of ownership and the power structures societies are built on. (I know: Yikes.)
NFTs are especially interesting in all of this. The concept of indisputable ownership of digital property may sound silly today ($9 million for a picture of a bored ape?) but the lack of it will probably sound unimaginable to your grandkids.
Why should I care about Web 3?
There are three reasons to start learning about Web 3: to understand—and maybe defend against—the threats it will generate; to seize one of the many opportunities; or to have some fun. Of course, you might be motivated by all three.
As you and your oh-so-2.0 colleagues trudge to your Zoom screens every day, doing things how you’ve always done them, there’s at least one tiny little startup in some garage somewhere planning ways to use the blockchain to do the same things completely differently (It’s always a garage. Can’t they work at the kitchen table?).
And in the garage next door, there’s another tiny startup inventing completely new things that could displace your company or industry. It may not even be trying to do this—swamping the old world may be a mere footnote in its glory-story.
Some markets—like finance, gaming, art and software—are already seeing the impacts. Others may take a few years. But your industry and your discipline may well be re-engineered by blockchain and Web 3.
Learning about these things now will increase your chances of seeing the coming brimstone shower and decrease your likelihood of underestimating it.
If your company plays a middleperson role, it may one day be replaced by decentralized alternatives. Some of these Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) are already figuring this out, and Decentralized Exchanges (DEXs) are already up and running (mostly swapping one crypto currency for another, but give them time).
If two counterparties can transact without an intermediary, with complete transparency and trust—for free—they will. Even deeply centralized exchanges are being re-engineered around blockchain (see companies like Atomyze in commodities and metals).
Other financial services are already being disrupted. Decentralized Finance (DeFi) (rhymes with the fee-fi without the fo-fum) is gaining momentum now. So things like loans, insurance, and payments will happen using the blockchain instead of the current stack of banks, processors and payrails.
Again: fast, trusted, transparent, and if not free, much, much cheaper… Sorry-not-at-all-sorry, Barclays and HSBC, you oligopolistic bastards.
Or think about supply chain management when every product is associated with a non-fungible token (an NFT) that can be tracked forever online.
Or a horse racing game where the horses are NFTs that can be bought, raced and—no kidding—bred to make new horses. That one already exists. It’s called Zed Run and it will make your head spin off your neck.
Art, sports, collectibles, gaming… NFTs are exploding in all of them.
And these early ideas are just skeuomorphic stabs at the really exciting use cases we can’t yet imagine. Like veggie-burgers, they haven’t yet let go of the meat metaphor (any more than early web pioneers could have imagined Tinder, Twitter, or TikTok).
Yes, a LOT of things have to be solved before the blockchain applications are ready for normal people. Technical things, legal things, and things that bridge the abstract notions of Web 3.0 to the concrete world of sneakers and supply chains. But it feels like there’s aneough money in the system to more than kick-start these innovations and adaptations.
You don’t have to wait around for the snot-nosed crypto-kids to come and eat your lunch.
Instead, you could be that disruptor (sans snot).
Because, for every threat mentioned above—and all the others not mentioned—there’s a few hundred opportunities. Opportunities to think up the new blockchain use case that topples the sleepy giants into Kodak Chasm and propels your face to the cover of MetaWired (the virtual version).
Web 3.0 for B2B and content marketing
In content, one of the more interesting opportunities is creator coins, like the ones pioneered by Rally.io. They’re a way for content creators to build communities, engage with them and reward them—financially or with exclusive content or services. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, is exploring new ground here with Tilt (see below).
And the larger-and-louder-than-life Gary Vee smashed his first NFT-driven community play out of the park. Vee Friends raised yet another fortune for a guy not short of fortunes. In minutes. He’s all in and it’ll be fun to see where it goes.
Also check out Tellie, the platform for creators to promote and sell their creations—art, music, tickets, writing—as NFTs. (Thanks, Agu for this).
Or the Brave browser that pays you for your attention in crypto currency. (Thanks, Duarte Martins for the tip).
The more you poke around, the more you see new ways that Web 3.0 will change processes and disciplines and industries. (Dharmesh Shah’s latest keynote at Inbound has a section on Web 3.0 including a prediction about how companies will pay for people’s data in order to market to them—but instead of paying a third party, they’ll just pay you and me directly.)
CAVEAT: Governments (and the lobbyists who own them) are understandably petrified by all this. They will try to regulate it and these attempts will be clumsy. They may distort and delay some things but they can’t put the crypto-genie back in the blockchain bottle. The geniuses are all on the other side.
Ironically, regulation’s attempt to control risk, may well be the biggest risk in all of this.
Now it’s your turn. The next post is called 15 Web 3.0 ideas for B3B marketers.
For me, learning is the fun part of work and life. I loved the early days of content marketing and the current boom in data-driven performance marketing because everyone is on the steep part of the learning curve togeter.
Well, Web 3.0 is the steepest learning curve of them all—and it’s coming to a planet and an industry near you.
Dive in now and you’ll never be very far behind even the pioneers. It’s all so new.
You don’t have to understand all the technical stuff to start figuring out the different applications and use cases (God knows, I don’t). Just get in there and poke around.
Instead of just reading about NFTs, say, go get a crypto wallet, put some ETH in it (or some other coin) and buy one (I bought this one for 10tez just to see if I could. I also like the idea of encouraging young artists by buying one of their NFTs—like Huw Messie, an experimental animator who works in embroidery.).
Or make your own NFT (I made this one from my embarrasingly extensive collection of manhole cover photos). (BTW no one has even looked at it much less bought one). (Quel suprise).
Or buy a digital horse and breed it for money.
Or join a Discord community around any of the Web 3.0 projects out there.
Or buy some $TILT coin and become a member of Tilt, Joe Pulizzi’s growing community of content entrepreneurs.
Where can I learn more about Web 3.0?
There’s no shortage of information sources on all of this. When you dive in, you’ll find your favourites pretty quickly.
Do add any good sources you’ve discovered in the coments below.
Here are some I like:
The next post in this series, called 15 Web 3.0 ideas for B3B marketers.
The Web3 Blockchain Fundamentals MOOC on YouTube. Geeky AF but really good explainers.
Web 2 vs Web 3 on Ethereum.org
Binance Academy – lessons on blockchain and crypto
Coinbase – the leading crypto exchange (ironically a centralized one…). Lots of content.
The Crypto Startup School from a16z, a series of videos from an event— a bit old but still good. Balaji Srinivasan is one of my favourites.
Giancarlo Buys Tokens – a YouTube channel by a former equities analyst. All about investing in NFTS. Only play with money you’re happy to lose. It’s still the Wild West out there.
Max Maher – a YouTuber with a thriving Patreon community, advising on crypto investing. See Wild West note above. I myself parlayed £50 worth of SHIB into £59 worth of SHIB. Hold my beer, Warren Buffett.
Cardano.org – one of the more interesting blockchain platforms out there, optimized for smart contracts… lots of cool-sounding partnerships…
Hic et Nunc – an art NFT marketplace. Kind of primitive and lots of fugly art but fun to see what’s happening…
Metamask – a popular decentralized crypto wallet
How NFTs Are Building The Internet of the Future – a TED Talk by Kayvon Tehranian (Thanks again, Agu)—one of many great TED Talks on Web 3.0-related topics.
Episode #542 of the Tim Ferris Podcast – with Chris Dixon and Naval Ravikant does a good job of separating the breakthroughs from the bullshit.
The original Bitcoin white paper – By the mythical Satoshi Nakamoto. It’s super-technical but gives you a good idea of the kinds of problems blockchain had to solve. Like a consensus mechanism and time stamps for transactions.
On the backlash side, do check out:
Line Goes Up, Dan Olson’s diatriabe-lecture againt all things crypto and NFT. He makes a lot of great points about fundamental flaws in Web 3.0 thinking—and about the scams and hype that threaten to derail it before it gets on its rails.
Why It’s Way To Early To Get Excited About Web 3.0 a great article by the guy who coined the term Web 2.0, Tim O’Reilly.
NFTs Are Marketing’s Latest Idiot Magnet – Mark Ritson doing what Mark Ritson does, scathing & entertaining. In this case, I think he’s shooting fish in a barrel: aiming only at the stupidiest NFT plays, but it’s lots of fun.