Your Brand and the Democratization of Technology
In the early days of the web, it was common for entrepreneurs to build, host, market and manage their digital products and brands themselves. This changed with the advent of platforms like WordPress and other content management systems (CMS) which enabled brands to publish their content without having to worry about hosting. These systems evolved into the social media platforms like Facebook, Insta and Twitter that we all know and interact with today.
Today’s savvy tech and business brands are starting to take this a step further, by adding the democratization of technology into their arsenal to rapidly speed up their offerings to their customers, innovate their products and further reduce their overheads.
So what is the Democratization of Technology?
Both Accenture and Forbes agree on the importance of future technology distribution and it is clear that whichever way one looks, we are at the dawn of a new age of tech. Shoppers can order virtually any product they want using only their voice, gamers are rapidly becoming platform-agnostic and may even detach from their platform in the future via streaming services that use cloud hardware and projects like MDN which aim to deliver high-end games via a browser.
Though there may not be an official definition of what democratized tech looks like, there is certainly a common understanding. With massive leaps in areas like cloud computing, AI, non-relational databases, and customer profiling, start-ups can quickly build exceptional personalised services and exceptional customer services.
Gone are the days when entrepreneurs to need bring together experts in all relevant fields. Instead, with the advent of services like AWS SageMaker, engineers, coders and product managers can build, train, tune, deploy and manage machine learning algorithms to enhance your offering and deliver a better service for their customers. And using an AWS ML engine does not tie a company’s products to AWS hosting, because of the distributed nature of tech, you can host on Azure (or any other host) while using AWS ML, or the other way round. At the same time, you can tie your product into a myriad of other services to improve your product, from currency conversion, shopping cart or payment services to weather data, financial news.
Interaction via the world wide web, and specifically the generation and proliferation of content, has been evolving since it started becoming a popular medium in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Generally speaking, web 1.0 refers to static web pages, web 2.0 to web as a platform, where data and content is centralised within a small group of companies, often referred to as “Big Tech”. Web 3.0 is the decentralisation of content, meaning as a content owner (and this is where your brand comes into play), it is scattered across multiple platforms and still owned by you.
Ownership of your content and therefore your brand can be governed in a non-centralised way using blockchain (associated with, but actually separate to cryptocurrencies), and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
“Ok”, I hear you say, “but what has that got to do with the Democratization of Tech?” Well, that is a great question. In web 2.0 your brand and the content you created to represent your brand, but was very much beholden to the centralised big tech firms that owned the platforms. In a decentralised web, two things change. The first is ownership, you own the content and can prove ownership via NFTs and blockchain comparisons. This means the content is yours and this means that if the platforms what to proliferate the content to their users then the revenue model could change to one of shared profit rather than all in the platform’s favour. This is a big “if” of course and relies on content providers comprehending the value they bring to platforms en-mass. Currently, content providers currently post content for free and then monetise externally, or via endorsements. This puts all power in the hands of the platform, only by taking ownership of your content and selectively allowing platforms to use it, does the relationship change.
The second change is that because your content is decentralised, can be tracked and classified across all platforms and even on non-platforms, then your brand is controlled by you. And when this is extrapolated across all brands there is no authorities determining where or how you push your message to your customers.
This is akin to what is happening in the economic world. Currently, monetary policy is centralised and dictated by centralised banks that set exchange rates and determine the boundaries of the markets. If Cryptocurrencies do become a mainstream form of payment then centralised institutions lose control. And it is the market, aka the users of the product, that control its destiny and set the boundaries — a true market-led economy.
What of the future?
While this may sound exciting, we do need to be cautious. This is very much unknown territory and some have expressed the potential proliferation of spam, online harassment or hate speech. Reddit and Discord have made tentative steps integrating NFTs into their content. Though Discord quickly made a u-turn after backlash from users. However, this seemed to be based on a distrust of NFT technology with a possible parallel to the way banks shunned cloud hosting in the 2000’s due to a lack of trust in data privacy. Others, like Jack Dorsey (ex-CEO of Twitter) have dismissed the democratisation of technology as a play by venture capitalists to shift power from the platforms to the economists.
As with any significant shift in technology, time will tell, and it will likely be the users who decide. It may turn out that the definition of “user” is shifting, and the boundary between “consumer” and “provider” is becoming blurred. The benefits to brands of having better ownership of their image across platforms and non-platform content alike are highly valuable. What is clearer is that the last thirty years of the web is just the start, and we have a fantastically exciting journey ahead!