Last week, YouTube officially announced their previously-teased NFT creator tools. It came with a familiar flourish of jargon: verifiable ownership, new monetization opps, etc. And the integration was predictably uninspired — basically, creators can sell their own videos as NFTs and buy and hodl others on the platform. Still, you’d be forgiven for considering this another milestone in the inevitable web3 takeover. A company that singlehandedly changed the content landscape of the past decade embraces NFTs as the future of the creator economy. Any degen worth their SHIB’s wet dream.
But Garbage Day makes a convincing counterpoint that a hard web3 pivot from a fading web2 giant actually signifies the opposite. TL;DR: YouTube has neither the prestige of streamers nor the streed cred of short form, so hopping on the trend is really their only play left. But it’s a hypocritical one, considering YouTube’s history of undercutting true content ownership at every turn. And it’s probably a doomed one, too, since the manner in which these tech relics adopt web3 runs counter to the whole appeal of the technology. The author points out that these supposed markers of true, immutable ownership will likely be integrated in a platform-exclusive way and will cease to hold value if the centralized corporation folds in, say, a decade. (Which YouTube’s founder explicitly acknowledges as a real possibility.) In short, YouTube is giving lip service to a community, and a big fuck you to their values. Sound familiar?
To me, it smacks of the same rancid-Sweet-Baby-Ray’s-flavored aftertaste of Zucc’s Meta rebrand. As we pointed out a few weeks back, Facebook’s web3 exploration effort is like if Indiana Jones went to Ethiopia and raided a display case of Nigerian artifacts curated by some Belgian diamond mine mogul at an all-inclusive resort. Like, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it might feel like what the fans want. But blow away a layer of dust, and it’s just the same late stage capitalist, intensely problematic bullshit, probably cooked up by the Disney-Exxon-Fox conglomerate in a U.S. Air Force funded production. Fortunately, fascism isn’t as profitable a brand as it used to be, and even with (or perhaps because of?) his transparent bandwagoning, Zuckerberg was recently forced into his own tearful pivot to video.
‘Pivot to video’ is such an endemic strategy among failing media properties and flailing social platforms that it has practically become a meme in its own right, a euphemistic death knell for washed up web2 brands. Which leaves me wondering: is adoption of NFTs the next iteration?
Sure, plenty of mega corporation web3 adopters — Nike, Coke, KFC — won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. A bitch needs his Family Fill Up. And, as telling as it is that the web3 craze is, for now, being shunned by the cool kids, it’s only a matter of time before TikTok offers its own NFTs. Anything else is leaving money on the table.
But when companies like Facebook and YouTube make web3 into their brand identity — or try to remake it in their own image — it says less to me about the reach of web3 and more about how some companies are so out of touch they’ll never reach it. The missions and models of these tech giants run contrary to the whole damn point of the blockchain. So, no matter how much money they throw behind their products, they’ll continue to get dragged in the Discord subchannels and Twitter threads where real web3 change is happening.
Whether they’ll be replaced by a genuine paradigm shift or simply an onslaught of future-proof cash grabs remains to be seen. (Although the totally well-adjusted, not-at-all-into-bestiality boys behind the Jacked Apes Club rug pull suggest the answer is not the one we’re hoping for.) Regardless, seeing the minds behind the alt right rabbit hole and/or Jake Paul have a very public midlife crisis is more than enough for me.