Who Should Control the Internet? – Rolling stone

We are operating in a Web2 world. But what does it mean and why is it important to understand it?

In today’s social media Internet, a powerful few control nearly all of our online experiences, as well as the vast amounts of corresponding data that accompany those experiences. What you view, what you like, who you tag and where you are is not owned by you but by a select number of extraordinarily large tech companies. You’ve heard of these companies – Facebook, Google, Twitter, and TikTok – and they’re all centralized Web2 platforms that “own” most of our online existence. While much of the Web3/decentralized internet chatter sounds like marketing hype right now, Web3’s core value proposition is exciting. As the leader of a privacy-driven social media company, I’ve noticed a growing interest in online privacy issues over the past few years.

News after news it shows that companies have been poor stewards of our trust and privacy, which is why I believe companies like Mastodon and mine, MeWe, have seen tremendous growth. People are tired of being manipulated to get their data.

Web3, if done correctly, could radically disrupt the consolidation of power we see today to go from “big tech” to “people tech”.

Web3, or decentralized technology, allows ownership of digital data to be transferred from companies to their users. There are many potential benefits to this decentralized technology: new ways to make money, new forms of governance, and ultimately the promise of personal privacy and more control as an individual user of these tools. Decentralized social media essentially shifts the focus of control from the business to the user.

Perhaps the most prominent examples of how our digital privacy is impacted in our current Web2 world are large social media platforms. In a recent Wall Street Journal interview with Frank McCourt, founder of the non-profit Project Liberty, whose goal is to transform the way the internet works and who benefits from the digital economy, said: “Big tech knows more about me than my wife, and I have no given them that permission.” The article goes on to share “the fact that some powerful internet players are ‘hoarding and exploiting’ personal user data, which is not only inherently unfair, but also ‘socially corrosive.’” I couldn’t agree more.

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Today, there are too many hurdles in switching from one social media platform to another. If you are one of 45 percent of users who have considered leaving Facebook or other major platforms, you’ve probably felt the pain of what this means: leave the platform and also leave your digital life behind. If you leave, most of the time the company keeps your “social graph,” a digital representation of your online connections.

The potential promise of Web3 is to be able to seamlessly move your digital “social graph” from one platform to another, allowing you to align your platform choices with your values.

Today, the best-known Web3 companies are generally crypto companies, but I believe it is when social media becomes decentralized that we may see the consumer benefits of this technology. In my view, many companies like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok probably won’t make this transition because their business models rely on selling user data to raise advertising revenue. Others, like Discord, could lead the way in this transition because they don’t sell user data to raise advertising revenue. But in a decentralized world, each person could have their own “social graph” that allows them to maintain their connections no matter what platform they use.

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It is clear that today’s social media is not as “free” as it appears on the surface. We pay for it with surveillance and the sale of the most personal aspects of our lives: our likes, location, and friends. But even if we feel manipulated, we get stuck because all our connections are there. Americans are concerned about how their data and information is collected and used by businesses (79%) and governments (64%), according to the Pew Research Center hits, and this created a moment of change. The Internet should be owned by its users, not a few extremely large and powerful corporations.

Not so long ago, this might have sounded like an ambitious, techno-utopian dream language, but technology and the dream is becoming a reality. It will take many entrepreneurs, business leaders and corporations to boldly step into the unknown and take action to make it work. I, for one, am excited about what the future of the internet — owned by people — holds for all of us. The future of social media is decentralized which means the future of social media is ours.