Roughly 30 years after web1 and 15 years after web2, the innovation cycle now begins anew with web3. This time, we wish to innovate in a way that reaches back to the past & recaptures what made us passionate about the web in the first place: Decentralization.
Last time, we looked at the evolution of internet communities & quickly outlined three reasons why communities will be the lifeblood of web3. Let's explore this in more detail!
COMMUNITIES ARE CULTURES & LIFESTYLES
What do Supreme and Bored Ape Yacht Club have in common? They've turned their brands into a religion of sorts. Just as everything Supreme touched turns to gold, BAYC and its derivative projects make the internet go bananas. One couldn't help but wonder: so what is it that Supreme and BAYC are actually selling? After all, the function of a T-shirt alone does not justify its price of €600. And how come these hipster-looking apes got the potential to become one of the blue-chip NFT projects with adoption by notable culture collectors & opinion leaders.
In fact, what they are selling is the intangible: a lifestyle, a subculture attitude, a means to individuality.
Thinking of Supreme, we think of a hypebeast brand with a cocky, counter-culture attitude to consumerism and corporates. Yet this unpolished and undoubtedly relatable approach has proven to set a winning culture for the brand. In addition, Supreme is constantly renewing its image & maintaining its high influence through various tactics: popular culture photographs, drops, celebrity endorsements, collaborations, etc.
Similarly, BAYC hones their cultural attraction through an intricate aesthetic with 80s hardcore, punk rock, and 90s hip hop. As the name suggests, the yacht club is billed as a place for bored investors, who eventually become billionaires in 2031 after years of "aping in". Left with nothing left to conquer, they converge to talk numbers and banter about memes. The concept is simple, yet it spoke to many people in the crypto space.
"Brands that don't evolve are boring brands, and boring brands are dead brands," says Ana Andjelic. Months after launch, BAYC is still a seriously vibrant community for holders to call home with a clear roadmap that continuously adds more utilities for its members, including scavenger hunt, narrative updates, blockchain games, collaborations & more on the horizon. Most recently, Adidas purchased Bored Ape NFT #8774 and made their debut in the metaverse alongside the notable NFT collector Gmoney and Punks Comic - a CryptoPunks-inspired project. Earlier, Maverick (Madonna's management company), Rolling Stones, and Timbaland counted themselves among the many partners eager to bring the simians to a broader media sphere.
Meanwhile, BAYC derivative projects are spreading like wildfire. Bushido Apes is probably one of the wildest derivatives out there. Their immersive universe is composed of NFT art collectibles, a robust community, an animated web comic series, community-directed donations, physical merchandise, regular narrative-driven events, and many more. Altogether, these build up the halo effect around BAYC, making having an ape on one's profile picture today as dope as wearing a pair of limited-edition sneakers.
On a meta point, it's part of our nature to collect things, preferably ones that are rare and have an appreciative nature. These assets help establish an identity for the holders, reflect their acute social consciousness and assist the construction of a community sharing the same culture currency. When someone buys an NFT, it's not the JPEG they are buying; it's the membership to an exclusive club they are betting on. "It's like an adrenaline rush, to be where the culture is going", one ape described.
COMMUNITIES PROVIDE SUPPORT & SOLIDARITY
"So what are members doing inside these communities?" you ask. Membership to an NFT community earns holders privileges such as access to a members-only chat, additional NFT collectibles, proposing/voting rights, invitations to an array of IRL events, and networking opportunities with people who got skin in the game (e.g. the movers and shakers of the NFT sphere).
On Twitter, as soon as a buyer makes their profile pic an image from an NFT, they can signal other members in the club to follow. The overarching sentiment is that of support and allegiance. In web3, we're seeing an unrivaled sense of brotherhood as opposed to the pre-NFT internet, where almost everyone is able to infiltrate a community and contaminate the conversation without consequence. In web3, it's the social, cultural, and financial investment in an NFT that unites us.
Communities are all about providing mutual empowerment, and this even makes more sense when a project's solidarity transcends their inner circle to support charitable causes or social issues. A case in point would be World of Women who have a clear roadmap for philanthropic initiatives with a portion of all primary sales donated to charities. The selling price of some NFTs reaches six/seven figures, so we're not talking about small change. Another example: back in August, Lobby Lobsters NFT drop raised $4M to support DeFi lobbying efforts, fighting for better policies surrounding cryptocurrency. "Collectors are buying more than an NFT. Lobby Lobsters are a badge of honor", they said.
Solidarity is in the DNA of web3 tribes. Leveraging the unique properties of NFTs, these communities have a powerful vehicle to raise funds in a safe, easy, and transparent manner.
COMMUNITIES ARE MICRO-ECONOMIES
The beauty of web3 is that it gives distributed communities a powerful tool to organize themselves and coordinate in an autonomous manner: DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization). In simple terms, DAOs are internet-native organizations orchestrated by computer programs. As such, they eliminate the need for a central governing entity.
Unlike a traditional company where decisions are made top-down, DAOs allow community members to collaborate on a consensus basis and receive a fair share of financial rewards for their contribution. Through ownership of purpose-driven tokens, holders earn voting rights and can work on an idea even before VCs get the chance to. BAYC just announced its plans to launch a token that serves as a reward for their NFT holders, works as a governance token for a DAO, and helps expand the project into other types of crypto initiatives.
On the other hand, communities nurture the micro-economy where their cultural and financial currencies trade. What do the apes do to increase their prices? While the project founders continuously reward BAYC owners with added utilities and exciting crossovers, their members keep the hype train going by showing solidarity and flexing their creative muscles with the NFTs. In contrast to most brands where exclusivity is the money maker, the BAYC founders see their openness as an asset for scalable culture, allowing holders to come up with their own cultural interpretations of their apes. Together, the project owners and NFT holders broaden the narrative universe, making everyone's holding more desirable. As a matter of fact, when an ape fetches a record price at auction, it automatically raises the perceived value of the whole community.
The following diagram by OxAllen perfectly illustrates this idea of how DAOs enable web3 communities to be self-sustaining economies.
In web3, there's no massive scale, winner-takes-all economics. Communities now can have a fair share of revenue and automate the ability to extract it. The more people engage, the stronger the community becomes, and the more resilient its micro-economy is against outside economic disturbances.
We have explored how communities can harbor sub-cultures & micro-economies of their own. In web3, culture comes first, products come second. Not the way around. For creators and projects entering web3, it would serve us well to ask:
- How can we create an infrastructure that gives our members a sense of purpose and belonging?
- How can we use the new tools to engage, reward & retain members in the long run?
- How can we leverage these micro-economic engines of passion for good?
Well, this is exactly what we are trying to do at SPKZ.IO.
SPKZ.io is the first web3 community platform protocol. On SPKZ, you have a safe place to chat with other verified holders, knowing they have skin in the game. You can also communicate directly with token issuers and enjoy exclusive community perks. As a DAO, SPKZ allows communities to own the protocol and be aligned around our token and its economy.