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Imagine having a treasured item that's been passed down through generations of your family - a piece of jewellery, a painting, or even a vintage car. It holds sentimental value and is a symbol of your heritage. Imagine that one day, the government suddenly declares that you no longer own that item. They say that you're allowed to use it, but you can't sell it, modify it, or pass it on to future generations without their permission.
This scenario may seem far-fetched, but it's a reality when it comes to digital assets in the age of Web 2.0. When we create content online - whether it's a blog post, a video, or a social media profile - we don't actually own it. We're merely granted a license to use it, subject to the terms and conditions set by the platform we're using. And those terms can change anytime, leaving us vulnerable to losing control over our digital creations.
Just as owning physical property is a fundamental right, shouldn't we also have the same rights to our digital assets? The concept of ownership in the digital realm has sparked intense debate among experts, policymakers, and users alike. In this article, we'll delve into the complexities of digital ownership and explore what changes are needed to ensure that individuals have full control over their virtual belongings.
What is Digital Assets?
So, what exactly is a digital asset? It's any type of content that exists in electronic form, such as images, audio, videos, documents, and even in-game items. But the real question is, who owns these digital assets? The answer might surprise you - it's not you. It's the platforms that you use.
Ownership in Web2 is Misconception
The concept of ownership in the digital realm, commonly referred to as Web2, is a misconception, according to a study conducted by Aaron Perzanowski and Chris Hoofnagle titled "What We Buy When We Buy Now." Their research revealed that a staggering 83% of individuals believe they possess digital items in the same manner as tangible objects, enjoying complete autonomy over their usage and disposal. However, this perception is far from reality. In actuality, ownership in Web2 does not truly exist, and two primary factors contribute to this phenomenon.
1. You access digital products online through borrowing or licensing agreements rather than owning them outright.
Imagine you're a book lover who has been collecting physical books for years. You take pride in your collection and enjoy displaying them on your shelves. But one day, you decide to switch to e-books to save space and convenience. You purchase a few e-books from an online store, thinking that you now own them just like your physical books.
What happens when you buy digital assets?
When you "buy" an e-book, you're not actually purchasing the book itself; instead, you're buying a license to read it. The publisher still owns the e-book and can revoke your license anytime. If the publishing company goes out of business or decides to remove the book from its catalogue, you could lose access to the e-book forever.
Your space or theirs?
Similarly, when you sign up for a social media account, you're not creating a personal space that belongs to you. Instead, you're essentially renting a virtual plot of land within the platform's domain. You may fill it with photos, posts, and connections, but ultimately, the platform owns the digital real estate. They can delete your account or change the terms of service without warning, leaving you with no recourse.
You are the product
This lack of ownership extends beyond digital goods and services. Think about all the data you generate every time you interact with these platforms. Every click, search query, and message contributes to a vast trove of user data companies can use to advertise, research, or even sell to third parties. In return, you get to use their services for "free." However, the value of your data far exceeds the cost of providing those services. It's a lopsided bargain that benefits corporations more than individuals.
What does real ownership mean?
Real ownership in the digital age should mean having full control over your data and digital assets. Just as you can hold, share, or sell a physical book, you should be able to do the same with your e-books, songs, and other digital possessions. Platforms must recognize user's rights to retain, transfer, or delete data without penalty. Until then, we remain tenants in the digital world, subject to the whims of our digital landlords.
2.Transferring ownership is not an option
Imagine buying a beautiful painting from a local artist. You hang it up in your living room and admire its beauty daily. But one day, you decide you want to move into a minimalist lifestyle and no longer want the painting. You try to give it to your friend who loves art, but the artist has inserted a microchip in the frame that links the painting to your personal information. The chip prevents anyone else from owning the painting, and you can only gift it to someone with permission from the artist. This feels restrictive and frustrating, right?
This scenario reflects what happens when we purchase digital assets like ebooks, music, or movies from centralized platforms like Amazon, Apple Music, or Netflix. We don't truly own these items; we are granted a limited license to use them while tied to our accounts within those platforms' "walled gardens." If we want to share or pass on these digital goods, it's often impossible without jumping through hoops or breaking the terms of service.
With web3, we can finally break free from the constraints of centralized platforms and fully embrace the benefits of digital ownership.
Web3: A New Era of Digital Ownership
In the era of Web 2, the objectives of internet giants often clash with the interests of their most valuable contributors— their users.
Imagine a future where the internet's ownership is democratized. In the Web3 paradigm, ownership takes on a new dimension, where those who build, operate, and use digital platforms have a stake in what they help create.
Thanks to Web3, digital assets find a secure home on the blockchain, a technology that attests to ownership. Moreover, the power to transfer digital assets through secondary marketplaces or direct exchanges becomes a reality.
With the ability to prove and transfer ownership, you're no longer a passive internet user. Instead, you become a true owner of your digital assets as we step into the next iteration of the online world. In the current landscape, 4 Ways stand out as a trailblazer, reshaping the concept of ownership in the digital realm.
1.Non Fungible Tokens
Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, are a revolutionary concept in the digital world. Securely recorded on the blockchain, these unique digital assets cannot be replicated or substituted with anything else.
The applications of NFTs are boundless, and they offer intriguing possibilities. Take, for instance, the world of classic literature. Imagine if J.K. Rowling had transformed the first Harry Potter book into an NFT when she first penned it. Not only could you have read the book, but you would also possess an early ownership stake in the magical world of Harry Potter. Or, picture discovering a talented but obscure author before they gained widespread recognition. If they chose to release their novel as an NFT, you could own the digital book and prove your support for the author before they became a literary sensation.
NFTs empower individuals with genuine ownership of digital assets, reshaping how we think about and interact with digital goods.
NFTs represent a pivotal step towards adopting Web3, where users increasingly create, manage, and own online content. This evolution enables a decentralized digital landscape where users have greater control over their online experiences and the assets they value.
2. Cryptocurrencies & Tokens
Tokens and cryptocurrencies are digital assets that operate on blockchain technology. A cryptocurrency is the native asset of a blockchain, while a token is a digital asset representing something else, such as a utility or an asset.
For instance, let's take the example of Uniswap, a decentralized exchange built on the Ethereum blockchain. Uniswap has its own native token, UNI, used for governance and utility purposes. UNI holders can vote on proposals to improve the platform and earn a share of the trading fees generated on Uniswap.
UNI is an ERC-20 token, which means it operates on the Ethereum blockchain. This allows users to prove ownership of their UNI tokens on the blockchain and transfer ownership by buying, selling, or gifting them. Additionally, UNI holders can participate in other projects built on the Ethereum blockchain, such as decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols or non-fungible token (NFT) marketplaces.
3. Web3 Domains
Web3 domains, which are built on blockchain technology, empower users with digital ownership and control over their online assets. These domains utilize decentralized systems and smart contracts to ensure transparency, security, and user autonomy. Let me provide you with an example to illustrate how web3 domains accomplish this.
Imagine you want to register a web domain for your website or blog using web3 technology. Instead of going through a traditional domain registrar, you opt for a web3 domain registrar, like Unstoppable Domains or ENS.
With these Domains, you can purchase a domain name (e.g., mywebsite.crypto, “myname.eth”) on the Ethereum blockchain. This represents the ownership of your domain.
Once you've acquired the domain, you have complete control over it. You can link it to blockchain-based services like decentralized storage, websites, or email addresses. This allows you to create a fully decentralized online presence.
4. IPFS gateway (like Spheron Network, Pinata, Infura, web3.storage)
Managing and storing data on IPFS can be a complex task, which is why there are services that simplify decentralized storage, known as IPFS gateways. These platforms allow users to easily upload their data, which is then stored decentralized on the IPFS network.
The InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) is a protocol and peer-to-peer network for storing and sharing data in a distributed file system. It is designed to make the web faster, safer, and more open. IPFS allows users to not only download but even host content, unlike traditional centrally located servers. IPFS is built around a decentralized and distributed system (DWeb) of user-operators who hold a portion of the overall data, creating a resilient system of file storage and sharing.
Some well-known solutions for IPFS storage include:
Learn more about these platforms and what will fit best for the users. Follow the blog Navigating the IPFS Landscape: An Insider's Perspective.
In conclusion, the idea of digital ownership is a very important topic in today's connected world, where our lives are becoming increasingly tied to the digital realm. The current way things work on the internet, often called Web 2.0, has put individuals in a situation where they don't have much control over what they own in the digital space. It often feels like we own things online, but in reality, we often just have licenses, and our ability to share or transfer these things is limited.
However, a new era called Web 3.0 is on the horizon, and it's changing the game regarding digital ownership. The move to Web 3.0 is a step toward a fairer digital future where people have the rights and abilities to control, share, and even make money from their digital assets. It's a big change that has the potential to redefine ownership in the digital age and give people the independence and power they should have in the virtual world.
As this transformation continues, it's essential for individuals, policymakers, and tech innovators to work together to create a digital world where ownership isn't just an idea but a reality.