If you use Facebook, Yelp, and Reddit, you should own a part of it too…

Do you contribute to Facebook, Yelp, Reddit, or sites like that?

Most of us do contribute to some sites like this and our contributions, more or less depending on our contribution, are the reason these companies are valuable.

Our contributions are the reason people come to these sites day after day, so why don’t we get a bit of ownership for our contributions?

Lots of ownership goes to the employees.  But, nobody goes to these sites for the high quality software, elegant design, or robust hosting.  Further, all of the tech they are using is the result of innovation by other people.

Most of the ownership goes to the financing.  Yet, these sites don’t cost much to run.  A pittance actually.  The cloud makes them very cheap to operate.  In fact, the amount is so small, nearly all of the money needed to launch these sites could be raised by the customers using these sites.

We don’t get ownership because we don’t expect ownership.

We’ve been conditioned to give away our work and our patronage for free while the schmucks on Wall Street walk away with buckets of money.

There is a small glimmer of hope things might finally be changing (it’s something I tried to do back in 2010-12 and got my ass handed to me for trying to do it).

My hope is due to three things:

  1. Desire to do the right thing.  We don’t see enough of this in Silicon Valley anymore, despite the fact that all great innovations start with getting the “why” right.  Reddit’s CEO, Yishan Wong (formerly of Facebook) is doing the right thing.  He’s planning to make Reddit’s users into owners, depending on their contribution to the site.
  2. There’s a way to create a form of liquid ownership that doesn’t require Wall Street.  This new method is based on the bitcoin blockchain.  That technology makes it possible to issue ownership to contributors in a decentralized and trusted way.
  3. The combination of blockchain stock, Yishan’s example, and the experience of participants will set in motion a wave of change in Silicon Valley.  The message is:  if you want to build an online company, you better find a way to make your customers/contributors owners.

PS:  This is potentially a sea change in financing/ownership.  There’s much more to this.  Wall Street’s banksters should be worried.



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Discussion — 16 Responses

  • James Bowery October 1, 2014 on 11:19 am

    You’re talking about a way, than asset tax of liquidation value at the risk free interest rate providing revenue for a citizen’s dividend (aka unconditional basic income), of dealing with network effect wealth concentration (aka natural monopoly aka network externaity, aka Reed’s Law aka, Metcalfe’s Law, etc.).

    From an earlier era, an analogy would have been to give early adopters of MS-DOS (both developers and users) equity in Microsoft. This may be a way to break the more pathological modes of vendor lock in and associated pathological concentrations of wealth. It won’t solve everything — there will still be vendor lock — in but not with the nasty concentration of wealth we saw in Gates and are seeing in Zuckerberg.

    I still think this is a problem that ultimately needs to be dealt with by sovereignty. The network effect component of asset value is really a civilizational-level problem. The ownership of a share — meaning its revenue stream — in the sovereign quasi-mutual insurance company should not be alienable — just as during bankruptcy one’s homestead (house and tools of one’s trade) cannot be confiscated to pay debts.

  • Anthony Alfidi October 1, 2014 on 2:23 pm

    John, using a blockchain type of ledge for anything other than recording large, one-time transactions will eventually become unworkable. Figure out how many teraflops it will eventually take to process a few hundred Bitcoin purchases for a candy bar and you’ll see that it’s unwieldy.

    • John Robb Anthony Alfidi October 2, 2014 on 8:26 am

      I’m not sure that is really a problem. There has been lots of improvement to the blockchain tech since bitcoin was set up. It’s perfect as a way to replace stock/ownership now. It’s also great for many other things too.

  • Mylinda October 2, 2014 on 9:58 am

    I’m soo uniformed. Even if I had any bitcoins how do you use them to pay for anything?

  • djysrv October 2, 2014 on 10:17 am

    For any of the so-called social media, users are providing “value” by being made targets for opportunistic and targeted advertising. Firms pay Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, others, for the purpose of lead generation and assembling & bundling various demographic targets into cost effective “audiences.” Free access to these sites seems like a pittance compared to the value taken by social media sites from their users. We’re their raw product and they get it for free at the cost of assembling the network infrastructure and sales team.

    The reason by analogy, imagine for instance the cost and profit of a mobile home if the builder got all the sheet metal, motor, and furnishings for free and yet sold it as though it had paid for raw materials, fabrication, assembly, etc.?

    While I have no idea how to value the difference, or develop a mechanism tor payment, I do sense from a gut perspective that the price paid for loss of privacy is not equivalent to free access for selfies. If anything, it accumulates a liability since scam artists gather the same profile information for criminal purposes.

  • Adam the Red October 2, 2014 on 12:32 pm

    So John, does this mean you are planning on starting a user-owned social media site?

    • John Robb Adam the Red October 2, 2014 on 2:28 pm

      I tried to do exactly this a couple of years ago. Too early. Now it’s different. Would rather just help people doing it already, do it better.

      • Vernondo John Robb October 2, 2014 on 6:16 pm

        I been thinking about an open-source social networking application/site for some time now, but I don’t have the programing skills to make it work.

        Are you aware of anyone doing this at this time?

        People are hungry for an “non-profit” alternative to Facebook and it’s ilk. A minimally functional site could go viral………


        • John Robb Vernondo October 3, 2014 on 6:39 am

          Lots of tried. No go. Not so much interested in “non-profit” or open source. Would much rather see people make an income while upending wall street…

          • Mattie John Robb March 9, 2017 on 9:16 am

            This inetdoucrs a pleasingly rational point of view.

  • Adam the Red October 2, 2014 on 12:35 pm

    Getting paid to share memes and chat with people sounds like a great idea.

  • Paula October 9, 2014 on 8:54 am

    This sort of thing is already working with regard to paid internet trolls. What’s the biz model there? Can it be modified to benefit all users and not just paid trolls?

  • El November 11, 2014 on 3:39 pm

    I’d be highly interested in such a venture. It aligns with some ideas I’ve had for a new kind of *chan website. One question, how do you get the high skills/high risk investment (and thus expecting greater payment for their work in creating and maintaining the site/application) people are kept around? You need programmers and webadmins and they want to make money. I’ll contact my programmer friends about this.

  • Ryan September 24, 2015 on 2:42 am

    Hi John, I’ve seen that you have a profile on Quora, but don’t contribute much. Similar thoughts there??