Blockcamp Brief (Issue #2)

It's Protocols All the Way Down

First, a huge thank you and welcome to the new subscribers over the last week! I hope you find these briefs to be interesting and valuable. If you have any feedback or suggestions, I’m all ears — [email protected].

Let’s jump in.

🔦 Spotlight

Protocols Over Platforms

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes crypto so compelling, and near the top of that list for me is its embrace of open protocols; a topic which Venkatesh Rao argues should be treated as a “first class concept”, one of the select things that comprise the default scaffolding for how we think about the world at large.

Ironically, much of the promise of web3 is about fulfilling the original vision of an open web that was first articulated by the pioneers of the early internet (“web1.0”) some 30+ years later after an unfortunate detour through the walled gardens of web2.0.

The foundation of the early web was predicated on establishing sets of rules, or protocols, for transferring data from one computer to another. Perhaps the most well-known of which is HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol). Initially designed to just transfer HyperText documents, it quickly became clear that it was pretty good at transferring virtually any kind of document. Combined with HTML (and then Javascript), you have the basis for virtually the entire web stack that exists to this day. Whether you’re using Chrome, Safari, Brave, or Mozilla—the website renders virtually the same.

Contrast this with native apps, for example, where you have to build two entirely separate instances of the exact same program for hosting on Apple (Swift) and Android (Java/Kotlin). This is because profit-seeking platforms realized that they could grow bigger and more profitable by gaining the attention of users, locking them in, collecting their data, and then ultimately selling it. In turn, they privatized protocols and imposed their own terms of service (like being able to unilaterally take away someone’s user handle because they made a knee-jerk design to change the name of their platform, for example).

So what are some of the most important use cases still in search of an open protocol? Well, at its core, Bitcoin is simply a open protocol for money. It’s a distributed ledger that tracks values associated with accounts, with strict procedures for verifying that changes to these amounts are legitimate. That’s it. In fact, this very function was planned for by the creators of HTTP, as evidenced by the 402 status code which was to be used whenever payment is required on a website (you’re probably more familiar with the dreaded 404 status code). However, to this day it remains “reserved for future use”.

Social networks are another big one, with protocols like Lens attempting to create a permissionless, user-owned network graph that can be ported anywhere. Your audience is your audience, regardless of what app you choose to share content on. This stands in stark contrast to closed platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and…er….. “X”, where you’re doing nothing more than renting your audience. Should you ever want to leave them and publish elsewhere for any reason, you’d be forced to start your audience again from scratch.

It’s also likely that entirely novel marketing channels will emerge as open protocols in the coming years (e.g. Blockscan Chat, an Ethereum messaging protocol). Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the most efficient and effective channels for marketers over the last 30 years—Email—is indeed built upon open protocols (SMTP/POP/IMAP). Again, open protocols make for great marketing channels because you, as the brand, can directly own the relationship with your audience.

Another great thing about open protocols is that other protocols can be built on top of them, serving as a sort of connective tissue. As a matter of fact, the term “protocol” is derived from the ancient Greek “Protokollon”, which literally means “first glue”. Chainlink recently provided a fantastic example of this with the launch of their Cross-chain Interoperability Protocol, connecting many of the largest blockchains in the world.

Because in the end, it’s protocols all the way down.

👊 Quick hits

  • While certainly out of vogue at the moment, there are still some signs of life in the metaverse as Futureverse raises $54 Million in a round led by 10T and Ripple Labs. On the topic, if you haven’t read Matthew Ball’s Metaverse Primer yet, I recommend checking it out. In it, he covers in detail some of the technological and behavioral challenges to adoption of an open metaverse, among other things. Lastly, KPMG also just published this study of how businesses are currently thinking about the metaverse. Lots to unpack here still.

  • Worldcoin, the Sam Altman led project that aims to create a "digital passport" for humans, launched on Monday. To get a World ID, users must do an in-person iris scan using a device called "the orb” in order to verify that the user is human. 1984 vibes notwithstanding, Worldcoin is being positioned as a necessity in the age of generative AI, which is already capable of producing human-like outputs in many mediums.

  • Japan leans into web3 as Prime Minister Kishida says in a speech on Tuesday that crypto is “a new form of capitalism” that has the potential to transform the internet.

  • Interesting piece from Jing Daily on how some of the top fashion schools in the world, from Parsons to Central Saint Martins, are beginning to offer courses on the intersection of web3 and fashion.

  • Set against the backdrop of a rather bleak venture capital market, two firms announced they’ve closed decent sized funds: Polychain Capital ($200M) and Coinfund ($158M).

🐦 From the world of CT

🔨 For your toolkit

The brainchild of Outdoor Voices founder Ty Haney, Try Your Best is a community management platform to directly engage and reward your fans for taking valuable actions. Think of it like a hybrid of a Loyalty and a Referral program, supercharged with the benefits of web3. That means as customers accrue value through their engagements with a brand, the benefits are theirs to keep, take with them, sell to someone else, whatever. The incentive alignment mechanisms that web3 enables between a brand and its customers should not be underestimated, and are likely to become the industry norm over the coming years.

🌐 Web3 Marketing Roles

🔗 Let’s Link

That’s it for today! Be sure to follow Blockcamp on Twitter and subscribe to the Blockcamp newsletter if you haven’t already. I’d truly appreciate it if you’d share this with any of your friends who may find it valuable as well 💚!

Until next time….