As apps saturate the internet, Web3 delivers a new solution to overpopulation | Brian Stirling

In the service of connecting publishers and readers, online platforms will increasingly be tasked with a challenge they haven’t confronted before: solving humanity’s messiest problem, the overpopulation of the internet. More tech, more problems….

As apps saturate the internet, Web3 delivers a new solution to overpopulation | Brian Stirling

In the service of connecting publishers and readers, online platforms will increasingly be tasked with a challenge they haven’t confronted before: solving humanity’s messiest problem, the overpopulation of the internet.

More tech, more problems. Not just the tech problem of overtaxing computers to produce ever more astonishing products but the human problem of overpopulation, bloated by millions of visitors to an ever more vast sea of digital content. The answer may be found in a new internet service.

A tidal wave of publications have traditionally stuffed their audiences with content from other publishers, via web search engines, bundled together with links to other sites. But web aggregation might have reached its maximum. Today’s technology advances mean that it’s possible to obtain a million views a day from one human mind alone. The next question is, which reader?

The interesting question in 2017 is, what can a writer do with all that web traffic, given that everyone now does it?

The answer is to monetise – through subscriptions and other forms of payment – that economic power.

The people at the top of the internet were doing that with web search. But in early 2017, another technology put paid to that strategy: web apps. The latest new form of internet technology allowed millions of mobile devices to perform all web functions on demand. In April, BuzzFeed announced it had had more than 10 million users from mobile devices.

This combination of tablets and mobiles has shown enormous potential for improved news literacy, if only because any number of devices, not just the same desktop or laptop, were scanning the internet at the same time. Bloggers by now were accustomed to abandoning efforts at post-pub, post-brunch digestion and devoting their time, energy and precious attention to their external social networks, sifting for something new.

All of this is being increasingly turned into social media, much as social media evolved from phone calls in the early 21st century, only with a mobile device attached to the end of the call. And one of the key features of all social media now is the ability to share your location. You can share your photos and your thoughts and be sure that everyone is in the same room.

But what if you wanted to share your thoughts with a local audience, also online? We needed a company that did it – until now.

In May, Monzo took over the London-based incubator that was known previously as Mind.com and formed Web3, a start-up with the ambition to make digital news more viable for established news publishers and those aspiring to be such. The Monzo co-founder says the aim is to be “the first news publisher that’s really trusted by a third of the public”.

Web3 is working on three possible models for interactivity, all involving either the use of cellphones or devices that facilitate communication with cellphones.

First, consider web apps. They turn the smartphone into a news app, allowing people to “see” the information they’re looking for using a visual interface. Second, consider web apps for the desktop. If you have a desktop and a smartphone, you can use the platforms as they are. One is for the latter. Web3 is, effectively, a web app for the desktop that turns the phone into a desktop app. Third, consider web apps to complement articles on other platforms.

Web3 intends to create three different kinds of user journeys – ranging from a basic search, a quick glance with relevant images, the ability to open the web apps and explore and convert the content, and finally a full-blown social journey, where both the smartphone and desktop platforms receive an article from the same news organisation – and users can share the article with all their friends.

Maybe this seems like a challenging social challenge to be faced head-on by computers. But Web3 itself envisions fewer computers as a natural byproduct of a system in which people know how to interact with each other. “People are using computers and using the internet for more and more of their everyday lives, but now they can also rely on their body to reach out and touch a human being,” says the Monzo co-founder, Anna Cooper.

To be able to find, explore and share by interacting with your own body (simply be attracted to an article or object, and hold the phone a certain way or make eye contact) is a bigger challenge for tech-driven media than simply distributing content.

Web3 wants to play a role in building the online community that wants more than just straight news. It sees itself as a way of building connections – outside existing technology, and outside the confines of the usual publications.

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