Our Protocol Playbook
The future of Twitter has been the talk of tech and journalism circles since Elon Musk announced his attempt to buy the company and take it private earlier this month.
It’s a perfect storm of controversy because, well it’s Elon, and Twitter has outsized social importance for some industries/groups (including crypto).
I’m not writing today to (directly) weigh in on the balance of free speech and content/behavior moderation although that’s where most of the controversy has focused. Instead, I want to explore the strategic and structural tensions that have made Twitter the “public square of the internet” on one hand and a struggling business with a product that’s chronically lacked innovation (including in moderation) on the other.
It’s the perfect case study to demonstrate why web3 matters and why we’re structuring the Geo Web project the way that we are: a decentralized, focused protocol from the start.
Ben Thompson’s Back to the Future of Twitter does a good job of quickly summarizing Twitter’s corporate/product history and proposing a path forward for Twitter to reach its potential.
Ben’s proposal is that Twitter should be broken up into separate business entities with one focused on licensing the core Twitter service (aka the “protocol”) to any and all entities interested in building interfaces, services, and businesses based on Twitter’s data/social graph (which is relatively simple, but super valuable!).
The strategic goal is to use open competition to solve the monetization, moderation, and other really difficult (and often controversial) challenges that digital networks face. If the free market can outpace the current proprietary, integrated stack then users and society at large would benefit. The protocol company could grow by capturing a “relatively smaller percentage, but of a much bigger pie.”
This isn’t a groundbreaking idea, to be frank. Twitter has been funding and working on Bluesky, its decentralized social media initiative, since 2019 (but has no tangible plans to actually “do the thing”). And as Ben’s post title references, Twitter once had an open API and a burgeoning ecosystem of 3rd party developers innovating on it.
It’s been clear that Twitter has been a mess for a long time, but the company has refused to return to and embrace a protocol-first strategy. It could be because the strategy won’t actually work, but I think it’s much more likely that misaligned incentives and organizational structure are the biggest impediments.
Twitter raised billions of dollars of venture capital and has been a publicly-traded company subject to quarterly results for years. Basically since founding, there has been unrelenting pressure for the company/board/executives/employees to not just grow shareholder profits, but justify their continued necessity for said profit growth. They suffer from a disease of more.
(Other social media companies with better advertising-investment feedback loops have become behemoths under/because of similar pressures…but aren’t we now acknowledging the unintended social consequences of the “successful” scenario too?)
It takes tremendous leadership, conviction, and credibility to execute a strategy that admits that Twitter the protocol was a brilliant initial product insight, but Twitter the organization underperformed the opportunity every step of the way after; the best path forward is actually less of “me,” my fellow colleagues, and our organization rather than more.
Maybe Elon will bring that to the table with a private Twitter. But it’s a huge ask, and not all that repeatable of a recipe (eccentric, pro-social(?) centi-billionaire with infinite risk tolerance taking over a private company) for a better internet going forward.
What gets lost in the hype of meme coins and overpriced jpegs is that blockchains offer a credible path for breakthrough product/network ideas a la Twitter to be instantiated as protocols that scale globally without startup or ongoing organizational capital. Ethereum (plus its L2 rollups or alternative L1 networks) can effectively eliminate the operating costs of “hosting an API.” Could the Twitter story have been different if its founding didn’t necessitate an organization inflicted with the disease of more since inception?
That’s the path we’re attempting to blaze with the Geo Web.
When the Geo Web is stripped down to its essence, it’s a database table that keeps track of who can anchor digital information to different locations on Earth. There’s nothing stopping others from creating their own competing tables, so our economic system that efficiently allocates these rights is our key competitive insight. But that’s the extent of the protocol, and all the Geo Web core aspires to be.
There are tremendous opportunities to build for and on this core protocol as we move into the era of the metaverse and spatial internet, but from the start, we're embracing open innovation to realize them. We don’t need to raise venture capital or submit to an extractive business model to fund the creation of every use case, interface, and service in search of profit. The partial common ownership system core to our protocol actually presents the opposite scenario.
All of our land market funds are earmarked to support public goods on the network (we have no organizational profit motive). The protocol can pay Cadastre interfaces a percentage of each land claim that they facilitate. Spatial browsers can be paid a cut of a social dividend paid to each verified Geo Web citizen that uses their browser. Artists, developers, and entrepreneurs can be paid by the protocol each time their creation is anchored and used on a land parcel.
We can supercharge the model that many people think can unleash one of the most important internet protocols today in Twitter. The reason I’m most bullish on web3 is that I know we’re not the only ones thinking this way.
- New project contributor zhyd1997 jumped in and began working on several of our open bounties for the Cadastre Redesign. Awesome to our permissionless/open org model at work! (https://github.com/Geo-Web-Project/cadastre/pull/116 & https://github.com/Geo-Web-Project/cadastre/pull/117).
- Cody continued to make infrastructural updates in preparation for our zkSync 2.0 testnet that uses our new streaming and auction matching contracts (https://github.com/Geo-Web-Project/sdk/pull/1, https://github.com/Geo-Web-Project/geo-web-subgraph/pull/15, & https://github.com/Geo-Web-Project/core-contracts/pull/63)
- Updated docs have been pushed live to the Introduction and Core Concept sections of the Geo Web documentation site.
- We’re going to present the Geo Web at Panvala’s next Monthly Town Hall on Tuesday, May, 3rd at 9 am MDT. Join the Panvala Discord server to learn what they’re all about and get more details about joining the meeting. We’re stoked because their community of communities is so value-aligned with what we’re trying to accomplish with the Geo Web.
- More docs updates
- Cadastre bounties
- Smart contract integration and infrastructure for the Cadastre