It’s no surprise to anyone that Web3 tech––blockchain, crypto, NFTs etc.––isn’t exactly “taking off.” As we all wait patiently for Starbucks to launch its potentially industry-shattering NFT rewards program, ChatGPT and other AI technologies are replacing the Web3 and metaverse buzz.
But that could all change with the incoming CEO of YouTube, Neil Mohan, who has been publicly expressing his excitement over the potential for NFTs and blockchain-enabled technology on the popular social video platform for over a year.
We should start with Mohan’s blog post from February 2022, which he released as YouTube’s chief product officer, a role he had for seven years.
“We believe new technologies like blockchain and NFTs can allow creators to build deeper relationships with their fans,” Mohan wrote. “There’s a lot to consider in making sure we approach these new technologies responsibly, but we think there’s incredible potential as well.”
Mohan added that blockchains and NFTs could be used to enable brands and creators on the platform to collaborate with their followers on new projects, and ultimately make money in new ways. Ultimately, this would look like fans owning unique videos, photos, art––even experiences––from their favorite creators.
Mohan also mentioned the possibility of making YouTube “more immersive” by working “to bring more interactions to games and make them feel more alive,” despite admitting that metaverse technology is “still in its early days.”
Sure, a fully immersive metaverse is years away (thank God), but Web3 tech, including blockchain and NFTs, is fully functional, despite a lack of regulation and sketchy safety standards. But any crypto enthusiast will tell you that there is a lack of utility, also known as cases (we’re waiting, Starbucks…).
That’s what I call scale!
The use cases Mohan were discussing in his 2022 blog post weren’t any different than what we’ve already seen in the industry. But it’s, well, YouTube. If the Google-owned company is able to persuade its users to truly want digital goods (which is another major issue), if it’s easy to use, makes clear sense, and creators are able to make enough money to be incentivized, then YouTube could have a new-age digital economy on its hands, supplanting themselves securely in the future days of the internet.
But, aside from NFT creation, what has YouTube done to incorporate Web3 tech?
In October, the company launched the Blockchain Node Engine, a cloud-based service for projects and developers leveraging the Ethereum blockchain. Nodes are containers that run code for crypto networks; the more nodes a network has, the more decentralized, scalable and secure it can be. Which means that YouTube is looking to help customers create without having to manage or monitor their nodes.
YouTube quickly announced an expansion of the program to the Solana blockchain as well, which will launch in the first quarter of 2023.
Other tech giants have incorporated NFTs into their platforms. Twitter, a breeding ground for Web3 hype, made it possible to showcase NFTs as profile pictures, and Instagram announced an end-to-end toolkit for NFT production this past November. Meta did something similar the summer before.
It’s still debatable how impactful (and popular) NFTs will be. But YouTube seems to be betting on their longevity.
"There’s a lot to consider in making sure we approach these new technologies responsibly," Mohan wrote. "But we think there’s incredible potential as well."