Let’s go back to the early 90s when the founders of the World Wide Web and its inventor Tim Berners-Lee were working on a list of errors people might encounter as they were interacting with the web.
Some of the errors they created are too familiar — the 404 Not Found error has turned into such a cultural sensation that websites compete to have the funniest page. Other’s are less common, but you might have witnessed them at some point, such as the 401 Unauthorized error. But, I bet almost none of you have come across the 402 Payment Required error, what a tragedy!
The founders of the web expected that one day the internet would have a native currency. Some form of digital cash or micropayment system that will be as integral to the proper operation of the space as links and passwords. Thirty years have passed, and there is no sign of the 402 error because it’s reserved for future use. Well, ladies, gentlemen, and my fellow queer comrades, the time has come to demand a 402 payment required page! (Shopify, MobileMe, and Google Developer are among the very few services that have at some point used 402 errors.)
You might wonder why I’m so eager to pay for digital services when we can get stuff for free. First of all, this is not just for digital services; digital cash can be used for buying physical objects. Furthermore, a cryptographic form of payment will allow for digital micropayments, protect us against surveillance (if done correctly), and remove the friction we’ve become accustomed to in transferring money within the digital realm. As a result, there is a lot to look forward to. Needless to say that all the “free stuff” have broken the internet and damaged our democratic institutions.
Having a digital currency will allow consumers of content to support artists, writers, musicians, and photographers by paying them each time they engage with their content.
Imagine if instead of paying for NYT, Medium, Wired, Spotify, Netflix, etc. Each time you interact with a publication, a cent or a fraction of that (micropayments) would go to the content creator. (Half a cent is significantly higher than Spotify pays artists.)
This micropayment process would allow for removing paywalls, removing Ads, and allow for reliable user-supported ecosystems. Best of all, this can happen automatically through a web browser (e.g., Brave) or an extension (e.g., MetaMask).
With the advent of Web 3 and decentralized ecosystems, creators can directly benefit and interact with their customers, without the need for any intermediaries. Decentralization allows for all profits to go directly to content creators, with no financial institutions or centralized ecosystems taking a cut from the profits.
Recently, I was listening to a few songs on Ujo Music, and I was quite fascinated by the ecosystem. Think of the platform as the Spotify for the decentralized world. When a fan buys an artist’s badge or donates to them (using the digital currency, Ether), the artist will receive the entire sum from the fan. Better yet, users don’t have to go through the cumbersome process of entering credit card data; they just click on the amount they want to pay and sign the transaction on their MetaMask extension.
The fluidity of the process made me feel like I was living in the future. It also allowed me to realize the power of removing intermediaries between artists and fans.
Removing on-boarding Barriers and Frictions in Payment
You might argue that supporting content creators is already possible (e.g., through their website or Patreon). While it’s true that we can support our favorite artists, the process is risky and cumbersome.
Each time you want to support a platform, you must create an account, complete a bunch of forms, share your credit card info, etc. Putting your identity data and financial information at risk of getting hacked or shared with third-parties for revenue (surveillance capitalism).
The friction involved in the payment and on-boarding process is what discourages many from buying from small vendors and enables autocratic ecosystems — Amazon and eBay. A native digital currency will empower users and small vendors to more easily escapes the tentacles of big tech.
A world that allows for frictionless on-boarding (e.g., through uPort Single Sign-on) and payment through a CryptoAsset (e.g., Bitcoin) will drastically improve the ability for the liberation of the citizenry from giant corporations.
Finally, there are too many platforms to support. It’s cost prohibitive and time-consuming to create a profile and support each platform we use. Not to mention, each transaction is stored in a database and attached to your identity, making it easy for corporations to target you with ads and states to spy on you.
CryptoAssets Will Protect Us Against Digital Surveillance
Life in the cybersphere is as real as life here. The citizenry, in the digital realm, should have the ability to spend money privately in the same manner that they can use fungible cash at a physical store, without being tracked.
When necessary, the same cryptographic currency can be attached to a person’s self-sovereign identity which would allow the parties involved to confirm the identity of the spender.
The verification of identity should be a feature and not by default, as it currently is. I doubt many of you wouldn’t want to live in a world in which everything you do is stored, additionally, people behave differently when they know they’re being observed.
Whether it’s Bitcoin or a different CryptoAsset, the web will ultimately have a native currency; a currency that is international and as accessible to a person living in rural Kenya as it is to someone living in urban Sweden.
The earlier we adopt a native currency for the web, the earlier we can work on creating ecosystems that prioritize the interests of users.