GameStop and Twitter are both a mirage and an iceberg — but don’t try tweeting that. Not because you won’t own the tweet (because you won’t), but because the only completely true expression that Twitter is capable of delivering as a platform is unlocking the ugly truth about the internet itself. Or as Elon Musk recently tweeted:
In retrospect, it was inevitable
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 29, 2021
Let me explain.
In the midst of Robinhood halting trading for its supposed users, Jack Dorsey has been talking about decentralizing Twitter and social media in general. But other than a few enthusiasts, the word “decentralization” is the equivalent to syntactical Ambien. But don’t fall asleep just yet. I promise I’m not going to tell you to buy Bitcoin (BTC), but I am going to tell you why you should be able to own part of the next Twitter and Robinhood. First, let’s say what we all clearly feel.
Related: GameStop saga reveals legacy finance is rigged, and DeFi is the answer
The decentralization has begun
There is something… in the air. There is a palpable electricity. A levy is about to burst — not a literal one, but a symbolic one that has stopped the river of progress and equality from flowing in far too many areas of our world. Power has always been held by the few, and in all of these areas, the equality of power is now at stake.
People are starting to move from centralized power models to decentralized ones, moving from the few holding all of the power to the many sharing in it. When this dam bursts, there will be a massive shift where everyone involved will become more powerful while the most powerful among us will start to become less so. A leak has already begun. It is the dawning of the new power.
Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms, authors of the bestselling book New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World — and How to Make It Work for You, describe the situation in a 2014 article:
“Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures. New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.”
The new power of the 21st century
While the classic top-down power model, or tree or pyramid model, has been around since at least Aristotle, the 21st century has been moving toward something radically different. We have seen it in the invention of the internet, in political movements like the Tea Party or Black Lives Matter, in the Me Too movement, in open-source software, in collective knowledge projects like Wikipedia, and of course, in the invention of Bitcoin (BTC) and blockchain. However, what may be most interesting of all: The universe itself, the human brain, art and our natural ecosystems all resemble decentralized networks. More importantly, they do not resemble top-down power models.
Heimans and Timms go on in their book:
“Those who are building and stewarding vast platforms that run on new power have become our new elites. These leaders often use the language of the crowd — ‘sharing,’ ‘open,’ ‘connected’ — but their actions can tell a different story. Think of Facebook, the new power platform that most of us know best. For all those likes and smiley faces we create using what the company calls our ‘power to share,’ the two billion users of Facebook get no share of the vast economic value created by the platform. Nor any say in how it is governed. And not a peek into the algorithm that has been proven to shape our moods, our self-esteem, and even some elections. Far from the organic free-roaming paradise the early internet pioneers imagined, there is a growing sense that we are living in a world of participation farms, where a small number of big platforms have fenced, and harvest for their own gain, the daily activities of billions.”
Robinhood and Twitter — and more importantly, the internet design that allowed their business models — are centralized and need toppling. They promote old power while marketing themselves as the opposite. This is where the mirage meets the iceberg. However, after the turbulent year of 2020, it seems the people have had enough. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak.
The cultural and technological shifts
What was once theory has now become reality. The network model is real, and ironically, it needs a new home because it currently operates on top of a pyramid.
The internet is run by central servers owned by central entities. Our entire human output of data is controlled, manipulated, studied, sold and used to influence our behaviors and extract as much value as possible for a small group of people. This is simply the way it is, whether large tech giants want to admit it or not. Users are products, not customers. In the case of Robinhood shutting down the trading of GameStop and other securities, its free services are now pointing to the fact that user trading data is the real money maker by selling it to hedge funds. In the case of social media platforms, they sell our data to advertisers and, sometimes, political campaigns — or worse.
So, where does this lead us?
Right now, we have millions of people desperately clamoring for new platforms where they control their own digital identity, control their own data and can even profit from and govern the platform. This new power proposition, where democracy meets libertarianism, thankfully already exists.
From the model Bitcoin created for peer-to-peer transfer of value, to decentralized exchanges for digital assets that operate on code alone, to decentralized finance staking platforms that allow users to literally govern the rules of the platform — all of which have no central entity in control — the future is bright.
But it is not enough.
Everyday apps that we use on our phones still operate under old power infrastructure. They all use central servers and corporate-issued IDs (the average person has around 70), and they all have companies that own all of the data generated by their products/customers. This needs to change.
New internet, or Web 3.0, builds new infrastructure and new roads for data to travel along and be stored. By removing central servers, allowing internet IDs to be issued by public blockchains, not corporations, and by giving users choice over how their data is stored, applications are becoming part of the new power movement. With decentralized internet, the popular adage “If it’s free, you are the product” can finally be proven untrue. How? Because Web 3.0 is a global movement, not a company.
This is how the internet was always meant to be: a vast, decentralized smart network that no one controls, like our universe, our brains, our oceans and now our cultural movements. Decentralized social media is already in development, with decentralized versions of Twitter, LinkedIn and WhatsApp in the works.
2021 is the beginning of the end for the old power of the internet. In my opinion, it could not have arrived soon enough.
This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Donald Bullers has over 10 years of leadership in the field of technology, spanning from being a digital marketing vice president to founding Tuum Technologies. With an interest in digital identity and Web 3.0, he leads multiple teams developing software for an entirely decentralized internet using Elastos technology.