Leaning Into Web3 at an Interesting Time
When we started Livepeer over five years ago, there were very few developers and teams building and experimenting at the application layer in areas like social media, entertainment, and the creator economy. We would show up to hackathons and developer events evangelizing how you could build great applications with video streaming, but most developers were there to learn to tinker with the basics of blockchain development, or innovate on a new financial primitive, rather than build a visionary application outside of the financial realm.
One of our values has always been practicality, or said another way, “ensuring that what you’re building is delivering value today.” While the web3 world wasn’t quite ready to take advantage of non-financial infrastructure, there was a $70B streaming industry out there that could certainly benefit from a global, scalable, cost effective streaming infrastructure coordinated by a global network of node operators. And so much of our product work was aimed around hiding or abstracting away the blockchain aspects of the user experience so that traditional companies could take advantage of the Livepeer network’s superpowers. This technique played out, and usage grew.
But then something interesting began to happen in the second half of 2021. Builders that valued decentralization and crypto-native developer experiences began to build apps that started to cross over to more mainstream, media centric use cases. The combination of low-cost L2 blockchains, proliferation of easy to use browser and mobile wallets, primitives like NFTs, blockchain based gaming, and metaverse concepts all meant that apps were now interesting and usable by the mainstream, and content now mattered. Delivering good experiences, rich with video, audio, design, and culture not only mattered, but were becoming tablestakes to attract and retain a community amidst so much movement and noise.
And for the first time, after years of building and validating backend infrastructure for web3, we saw the growth of inbound hackers and developers coming to Livepeer to build blockchain integrated video applications — decentralized social media apps looking to better serve their communities than Youtube or Twitch, creator centric apps looking to create a better experience than Kickstarter or Patreon, innovative DAOs looking to leverage video for events and community content with on-chain access controls, and more. Over one hundred web3 experiments have been hacked on Livepeer in 2022 alone.
That brings us to the interesting moment that we find ourselves in today. From doomscrolling through Twitter one may think that web3 is over — with financial firms imploding, over-leveraged projects becoming insolvent, and traditional VCs and execs gloating that web3 doesn’t exist. We saw the same gloom in 2018 and 2020. But when I look at the developer attention, what innovative experiments are being run, and what is getting built, I see the opposite. I see hundreds of new and innovative ideas being experimented with, hacks being built, and ideas and concepts being put out there for the world to be inspired by — leading to an inflow of hacker talent into the space unmatched by any other industry. While many of the financially oriented projects and companies may find themselves facing headwinds, I know many of the companies building web3 infrastructure for developers — networks like Livepeer, Arweave, The Graph, Helium, Akash, Pocket Network, and more — find themselves well capitalized and with growing adoption.
The web3 future that we’ve been building for since 2016, feels like it’s finally here.
So in this moment when so many are running away from the blockchain space, or decrying it as dead, I actually find myself leaning in even harder. No more needing to hide or abstract away the blockchain aspects of Livepeer in order to make it more acceptable to traditional industry. Putting the web3 front and center, and focusing on it as a differentiator, feels like it is central to meeting the needs and expectations of the thousands of developers out there tinkering with these technologies every day. With all of this building, it’s inevitable that breakout applications will emerge that are better for creators than the Google, Amazon, and Facebook owned attention economy applications that we see today — and I want to be sure that we’re there to power them, and not miss the opportunity due to all the narrative and market fear due to macro market conditions causing projects to run. In short, time to lean even harder into web3.