Open Web

Web on someone else's terms

In the current Web, corporations have the responsibility to keep your data, and they abuse the right to own the data using EULA license. 

Whenever a corporation wants to make a change to their product, they force you with an ultimatum. You either agree to the new feature, or you have to leave the product altogether. This is an abuse of power which we all take for granted.

Alternatively, you can opt in to the other Web. 

Web on your terms

Internet on your terms starts with the ownership and responsibility of your data. You will have a new wallet. Unlike a wallet you keep in your pocket, you will not only store the money there, but you will also store all kinds of data related to you: reputation data, social graph data, health data, family/personal data, recommendations data, historical data -> kind of everything related to your life, and more in a good way.

From this wallet as the origination place for all things related to you, there will be millions of new web3 (fancy term for the decentralized Internet) applications emerging. 

Each person will be using different kinds of applications, and these applications won't be solely reliant upon advertising business models. We will see more businesses not being dependent on ad revenue. 

Design Principles of Open Web

Couple things will be different from how they're today:

  • Data will be stored on "public good" servers, not on corporate servers (we need this before most of us know it)
  • Private (encrypted) by default
  • Data will be re-used by different applications
  • Front-end, back-end and smart contracts will be open-source
  • No ads needed to support businesses
  • Apps will have fewer users and won't need to be subject to "winner takes all" dynamics (so crucial for balanced conscientious society)
  • Each niche community or individual will have apps catering to their unique needs

How does this change things for each stakeholder?

Open Web and the user

When did you download new app on your phone last time? I bet it was a long time ago. This has to do with the fact that since the user data is stored on corporate servers, it becomes a competitive advantage over time. User data created the fly-wheel effect, and startups no longer can compete with large corporations amassing large troves of user data.

If you reverse the pattern and allow for users to have both ownership and responsibility over their own data, then you will be able to see millions of new apps that don't exist today. Since these apps won't be reliant on old ad-supported revenue model and also have options for direct pay, we will see niche apps catering niche communities, while being also sustainable on their own. 

There will be fierce competition for users, but there will also be an opportunity to move communities between apps quickly. Each person will have apps that cater to their specific needs.

Open Web and the developer

In the open web world, the sole developer gets a whole lot more powerful, because he or she can re-use the open data. Instead of each of the developers working on their things, each will be able to take advantage of each other's work. You can think of it as a continuation of open source movement, but with incentives embedded in it. 

Additionally, the developer will have a new career path: work for yourself. Instead of choosing between working for a corporation or a risky entrepreneurship path, there will be a third option: build something that people want, and get paid for it. It's like being consultant, but making your stuff sustainably.

Open Web and the entrepreneur

It's challenging to compete in the consumer web industry, precisely because user data lock-in produced a few winners who print billions of dollars in ad revenue and hire top talent to preserve the status quo.

Entrepreneurs who pursue open Web will take advantage of its unique properties:

  • Easier access to liquidity and markets
  • Ability to build on a platform that won't change rules one day
  • Ability to monetize via a direct-pay model

Open Web and the investor

Investing in Web today is similar to investing in a vendor inside of a Disneyland. At any point, the Disneyland owner can come back to the vendor and explain that the rules (e.g. revenue split, what they can and can't do, level of access to data) are changing. 

In the open Web, investors will appreciate the "digital property rights" emergent from the properties of tools required for building on open Web. Since there will be trust in rules not changing, later on, investors will be trusting to invest time, money and other resources into this new paradigm. 

Sample Use cases

I will sample just three versions of where we can go, understandably missing another million use cases that will emerge:

  • Community Apps
  • Passion Economy
  • Open Web Services

Community Apps

As one example, in today's Web, I don't have that many options for understanding what's going on in the city where I live in. I can use, Facebook Groups and perhaps Nextdoor app. None of the three are catering to my needs. 

I want to have an app that does the following:

  • Shows me who is in the area and open to playing a computer game together
  • So I can both make new friends and have some fun
  • Allows me to communicate with these people directly
  • Shows me a calendar of other fun events in the area based on my interests
  • Has embedded marketplace for me to share the games I have with my neighbors

Apps like these (not as elaborate, but just as communal) existed in the early Internet and then disappeared. 

I'd be willing to pay for this app, as I am sure there will be a niche community willing to pay as well. 

Passion Economy

The shift from the ad-supported model to direct monetization by creators is well under-way, as Li Jin suggesting.

Earlier this year, 800k+ member subreddit called Change My View de-platformed itself from Reddit. It launched its website with functionality that was needed by the community and wasn't supported by Reddit. 

Similarly, Wolfer community (more on it here), de-platformed from Facebook groups and into its website. 

Are we going to see more of a move towards open web platforms? I think we will for sure, and we need to ensure that there will be enough tooling and functionality in place to help other communities to do similar moved from the old Web to open Web. 

Open Web Services

I have friends in various large tech companies, and each of these tech companies had to build hundreds of web services (with 99% of them being closed source). Out of these hundreds of web services, 95% of them represent trivial functionality that isn't specific to these particular tech companies (e.g. convert .doc to .pdf).

Why do we need to rebuild the same trivial stuff over and over again? Why isn't there a typical open web services marketplace?

I get it: open source suffers from the tragedy of commons. What if this actually need a layer incentive system on it, allowing developers to monetize their web services? What if web service becomes popular, the developer gets the revenue stream from this? 

Coincidentally, open web tooling has this incentive system embedded natively in it. 


I'd argue that this is perhaps the most exciting part of the Silicon Valley ecosystem these days, and we will see hundreds, and then thousands, and then millions of developers getting interested in the topic. The platform wars were always predicated upon developers revolting against the old platforms, and this is an evolution of the same trend. It will take years to transition from the Web we know to the open Web, but this transition makes sense for most of the parties involved. 

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