If we go to the crux of how Facebook makes its money, the answer is of course its users’ content. (It’s not the opportunity to see the latest adverts making 500 million people visit the site each day).
Everyone understands there’s some kind of deal in place: non-subscription use of a platform that highly efficiently connects us with our friends, in exchange for people data and user content to facilitate advertising.
To date, it’s been an acceptable value exchange. But Facebook, now more than ever, depends on its users. So is that relationship, or status quo, going to last forever?
One new blogging platform, Teckler, has ideas that present something of a challenge. Its CEO just announced the following: “Teckler is the next step in the world Internet. We think that with Internet 1.0 the vast majority of services were free, and on Internet 2.0 companies actually began to make money with content generated by users. On Internet 3.0, the ones who are starting to make money are the users themselves who create this content”.
It’s an interesting idea. What it means is, now that the expensive infrastructure of web 2.0 is in place and money can be made, we should start to see a shift where consumers better understand their own value in the ecosystem, and will be able to claim their piece of the pie.
In a world driven by efficiency, it’s not a massive leap to follow logic and suggest that if Facebook users’ content give it its real value, should Facebook users not be some sort of de facto shareholder in the company? Is Facebook’s future to be the world’s largest loyalty scheme?
Some of the tools that would facilitate the necessary shift in culture at a consumer level, are already in place. YouTube has a highly organic approach to content, by encouraging individuals to use advertising to make their own money. Some individuals are already making significant incomes for their own content, notable examples include gaming reviewer The Syndicate Project and comedian Shane Dawson.
And Teckler, as you might have guessed, is a new blogging platform originating in Brazil that promises to remunerate its users for the amount of exposure their content brings to the platform.
Other newer services are also aiming to encourage users to better understand their own value. SnapMyAd is a new photo sharing app which responds to the recent furore caused by Instagram changing ownership rules. Rather than claim ownership, SnapMyAd actively rewards the content creators by selling their images to advertisers, for example.
While not all people will be interested – or perhaps interesting enough – to make money from their content, it is not to say that a better quantification and value exchange is not possible. And if this cultural development were to typify internet 3.0, it would extend into realms not just of valuing people’s content, but also their data.
We recently saw a video by one of the founders of Wired magazine which succinctly reminds us that we are within touching distance of a world in which we can make marketing inherently valuable to consumers – but it depends on three things: ‘liquid data’; the infrastructure to handle it; and importantly, a ‘culture of permission’ based on an understanding of the social contract. It’s something that could be bigger than the stock market, he reflects.
So is internet 3.0 a future which reappraises value exchanges taking place across the internet, to the benefit of all of use it? These are formative, and hugely exciting times, best suited to the most agile.